|The states with the most distressed counties are :
||Kentucky, 35 distressed counties
West Virginia with 21 distressed counties
Mississippi with 12,
North Carolina, 1
Poverty in Appalachia is
widespread and severe. The poorest families seem to gravitate to areas
that are often called the hollows. The hollows are back areas in the
mountains - these areas are largely owned by coal companies and many of
the poor live there as squatters. The coal companies do not seem to care
that the squatters are there and seem to expect them. When the coal
plays out, the mining operations move out and the squatters move in. A
new community then begins.
Abandoned trailers and
abandoned company buildings become homes. Sometimes FEMA trailers are
available. Those who can get a FEMA trailer are lucky, indeed, as these are
likely to be fairly new and in reasonable condition.
Winters are difficult. Many
children do not wear shoes in warm weather, but save what they can get for
cold weather. Their
systems are both friend and enemy. Coal is a cheap and, sometimes, free way
to heat, but trailers are not properly equipped to heat with coal. Many of
the trailers have a stovepipe sticking out from a window.
Fires are common and fire trucks are not readily available in the hollows.
Education and illiteracy
are major factors in promulgating poverty. The vast majority of educational
systems require parental participation. This does not work in a community
where there is a high concentration of illiteracy. It has been shown that
children of illiterates begin to fall behind other children by the time they
reach the third month of kindergarten.
The roads in the hollows
are mostly single lane, and are widened every few hundred yards so that
oncoming traffic can pass. Many of these roads were built by the coal
companies for their equipment.
3. In some areas of
Appalachia, as many as 16.8 percent of the homes are classified as
substandard. That is, it has more people than rooms and is without indoor
4. Rates of poverty among
children under the age of 18 in Appalachia range from 17 percent in
some counties to as high as 56.4 percent in others.
McDowell County, West
1. The poverty rates and
illiteracy rates are very high. In McDowell County, WV, the poverty rate is
33% with 49.4% of the children living in poverty. Unemployment is over 30%.
The number of disabled persons over the age of 5 is between 40% and 45%. The
percentage of high school grads among folks age 25 and over is 50%
2. Infrastructure is poor.
McDowell County has an area of 534
sq. miles but has
only one U.S. Highway. County roads are poorly maintained due to low tax
revenues. Municipal water systems serve a small percentage of the population
and one of the four does not deliver potable water. Flood control is poorly
managed. McDowell experienced two 100 year floods two years in a row – 2001
and 2002. In 2002, fifteen percent of the homes and businesses were
destroyed and thousands of others severely damaged. Thirteen lives were
lost. Today, one home in six remains unoccupied.
3. Sixty seven percent of
the households have no wastewater treatment, allowing 314,000 gallons of
untreated waste per day to enter streams and rivers.That's 13 ˝ gallons per
resident. EPA statistics indicate that 558 persons in McDowell are drinking
untreated groundwater. They also concede that the number is under reported.
4. Tax base is very low.
Sixty percent of the land in McDowell is owned by absentee corporations that
do not contribute to the tax base, yet spend millions in lobbying to defeat
legislation that would clean up the air, water and flood problems. Less than
6,000 persons are employed full or part time.
5. Coal Mining scars the
land and scars the people. When miners can work, they live well but own
little. The company store owns them, their credit and their futures. Mining
provides prosperity for a short time but has long lasting effect on the land
and people in the forms of water and air pollution, flood problems,
disabilities, black lung, emphysema. Mercury levels are high everywhere due
to coke processing. You don't have to go into the mines to be affected –
their families are exposed to significant health hazards as well. Many
problems remain long after the coal companies move out.
6. Population decline.
Population in 1950 was over 98,000.
Today it's under 23,000. In 1950 the workforce was estimated to be over
50,000. Today the workforce is 6,000 of the 23,000 total population. Average
family size is 2.4. The seeming disparity between population (23,000) and
workforce size(6,000) is, in part due to the fact that there are over 10,000
persons who are disabled and not part of the work force. Death rate exceeds
birthrate by 28% - 310 vs. 397
7. Many children are being
raised by one parent or, very often, a grandparent.
8. Educational systems
universally depend upon parents to augment the system by assisting children
with homework and study disciplines. When the parents are illiterate, the
children quickly fall behind.
more articles on Appalachia:
Map of Appalachia
Hunger in Appalachia: One Story
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