NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Poverty Declining in Appalachia

July 12, 1999

While Appalachia still remains poorer than the nation as a whole, it has made significant progress in the past three decades or so. In fact, the region now has a high school graduation rate slightly higher than the nation as a whole.

Distressed Appalachian counties run from Mississippi and Alabama through the mountains to Pennsylvania -- within the borders of 13 states.

  • In 1960, 219 of the 406 counties in the region qualified as distressed -- meaning they had poverty and unemployment levels 150 percent of the national norm, and per capita income two-thirds or more below the national norm.
  • Today, 108 counties are listed as distressed.
  • In 1960, 31 percent of people lived in poverty there -- compared to 22 percent nationally.
  • Now the poverty rate is 15 percent -- just two points above the national average.

Since 1965, the Appalachian Regional Commission has approved spending $7.4 billion in the region. Nearly two-thirds of that has gone to build 2,400 miles of an anticipated 3,000 miles of highways.

Source: Peter Applebome, "For Better and Worse, Poverty's Poster Child," New York Times, July 11, 1999.


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