Morehead State University

Poster Title

Making the Transition: An Assessment of Distressed and Non-distressed Counties in Eastern Kentucky

Institution

Morehead State University

Abstract

One hundred and twenty-one Appalachian counties are currently classified as ‘distressed’ by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Distressed counties have higher rates of poverty and unemployment, and lower per capita income, than non-distressed counties. Currently, forty-two of Kentucky’s fifty-one Appalachian counties are classified as distressed, an increase of approximately nine percent from 1990. As a step towards understanding county-level strategies that may be used to successfully transition from distressed to non-distressed status, this study investigated a number of additional social and economic variables for a group of six currently distressed and six currently nondistressed counties in eastern Kentucky. County-level population, education, and economic data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau for each census period between 1970 and 2000. Graphs and maps were used to identify and analyze trends in population, education, and economic variables for each group of counties. Key differences in educational attainment levels and industrial diversity were observed between the distressed and non-distressed groups. Project results were used to develop a broad set of guidelines (an ‘action plan’) intended to assist currently distressed counties in making the transition to non-distressed status. The quality of life will improve for all the people of Appalachia as more counties make this transition successfully, and the goal of building sustainable Appalachian communities will be increasingly within reach.

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Making the Transition: An Assessment of Distressed and Non-distressed Counties in Eastern Kentucky

One hundred and twenty-one Appalachian counties are currently classified as ‘distressed’ by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Distressed counties have higher rates of poverty and unemployment, and lower per capita income, than non-distressed counties. Currently, forty-two of Kentucky’s fifty-one Appalachian counties are classified as distressed, an increase of approximately nine percent from 1990. As a step towards understanding county-level strategies that may be used to successfully transition from distressed to non-distressed status, this study investigated a number of additional social and economic variables for a group of six currently distressed and six currently nondistressed counties in eastern Kentucky. County-level population, education, and economic data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau for each census period between 1970 and 2000. Graphs and maps were used to identify and analyze trends in population, education, and economic variables for each group of counties. Key differences in educational attainment levels and industrial diversity were observed between the distressed and non-distressed groups. Project results were used to develop a broad set of guidelines (an ‘action plan’) intended to assist currently distressed counties in making the transition to non-distressed status. The quality of life will improve for all the people of Appalachia as more counties make this transition successfully, and the goal of building sustainable Appalachian communities will be increasingly within reach.