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Socio-Economic and Educational Characteristics of Appalachia-KY Essay

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The term Appalachia refers to distinctive-cultural counties, which are located, in the eastern part of the United States of America. The Appalachian regions include various states such as; Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, among others.

The inhabitants of the Appalachian regions were seen as illiterates, who accounted to high levels of poverty despite the regions vast natural resources.

Socio-economic characteristics, which influenced the, population density in the Appalachian regions included; unemployment rates, urban and rural population, families below poverty level, racial and ethnic minority population, household income data, and number of children per family.

Educational characteristics included school enrollment, high school dropouts, numbers of private and public schools, public school expenditures, high school graduates, numbers of secondary and post-secondary schools, minority student population, numbers of school personnel and adult illiteracy rates (Langman, 1971).

Socio-economic characteristics of Appalachia in Kentucky

Kentucky State used to be a very poor region, with a vast number of its localities living below the poverty levels mark. Despite the rich agricultural land, the inhabitants were very illiterate and therefore, could not convert the available natural resources to their own advantage (Langman, 1971).

Therefore, the communities lived in abject poverty levels. The introduction of coal mining and large scale mining activities aided the natives to earn a basic salary. These activities supplemented their livelihood, but due to poor management methods, the activities did not help them much.

Much later, the federal government sought alternative ways of eliminating the existing poverty levels in the Appalachian regions (Billings and Blee, 2000). The government introduced new and better farming methods, and ensured cheap electricity was facilitated through the construction of numerous dams.

Furthermore, the enactment of the Appalachian regional commission (ARC) which had a mission to eliminate poverty levels provided educational opportunities and improved health care services to the natives (Billings and Blee, 2000).

Social Characteristics


The need for independence led to the dire need to establish religious movements in the Appalachia. These religious movements originated from England and have been undergoing various changes with the changing times (Williams, 2000).

Among the common current religious practices are; congregational applauding, preaching and baptism, which are practiced with different religious forces such as catholic and protestant (Leonard, 1999).


The Appalachia settlers were mostly from the Anglo- Scottish border regions such as Lancashire, Westmoreland, Yorkshire, Berwickshire, and Cumberland, among many others. Europeans and Italians were attracted to Appalachia due to booming manufacturing and coal mining activities (Billings and Blee, 2000).

Americans are the native inhabitants of the Appalachia regions while the Melungeons are all over eastern Kentucky. The ARC regions are mainly inhabited by African-American communities who live in the urban areas while the Germans settled in the southern mountains.


The Appalachia dialect is strongly influenced by the Scottish dialects although it boasts of a rich and unique American origin (Keefe, 2009). The Appalachian dialect is grouped into the northern midland dialect, Pittsburgh English and the southern Midland dialect.


They comprise a mixture of European, Native American and bible influence. The natives taught the European how to plant corn and squash, and knowledge of medicinal herbs and roots.

They used the biblical signs to know the time to plant such as the phase of the moon (Keefe, 2009). Their fork tales comprised of the Irish fairy tales, Scottish and English. They also told tales of the wild animals, short stories and murder stories.


It is the most known of the Appalachia culture. Traditional music is both a composition of English and Scottish ballet tradition with some aspects of Irish and Scottish fiddle music ((Keefe, 2009). English and ballet songs were passed down from generation to generation.

In the 1920’s, commercial recording of Appalachia music had a great impact on the growth of country music. Appalachia music is preserved by holding a dozen of music festival in the region every year.

The financial stability in the Appalachia was greatly enhanced by various activities which included manufacturing, logging, mining and agriculture.

With the changes in technological advancements, international and domestic tourism practices led to an increase in the economical level in the Appalachia territories.

Economic Characteristics

Timber harvesting/logging

Vast areas of Land in the Appalachia region is covered by numerous forests that provided enough jobs in the timber milling sector to feed the families (Henry, 1986). However, local people did not benefit much from it as most profits went to outsiders and the locals only got the wages.

As Myles Horton, a local Appalachian resident describes it “Appalachia is rich in resources but poor in people. All riches go to out and we must find a way to take it back some of the riches that belong to the people” (Henry, 1986).

Coal mining

Coal mining provides a source of employment to the Appalachian people. Mining is being replaced by oil use which in turn has caused the region economic hardships (Weise, 2001).

The key indicator of mining depletion is low employment rate which is a third of what the coal mines of the initial work force; no new investment is being channeled to the mines and production being moved to the western American seams (Weise, 2001).

Tobacco farming

Tobacco farming is one of industries that have boosted the Appalachian economy. Tobacco is one of the major crops grown in the region. It is grown by small scale farmers in the southern and central Appalachia regions (Yarnell, 1999).

In the 20th century the government introduced the allotment system which allowed the farmers to grow a small amount of tobacco for better prices. This system has helped farmers to generate stable and regular income which is supplemented by other farming activities (Yarnell, 1999).


According to Starnes (2005), tourism is also the oldest economic activity in this region, and it dates back to 18th century. It brings close to 30 billion USD and offers over 600,000 jobs. The mountainous terrains are the major tourist attraction sites (Wilson, 2009).

It also has the world known hiking trails like the great smoky mountain park, which is the most visited the park in the region. Other tourist attraction sites include: the Biltmore estate and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, which are in the Northern Carolina.

Many tourists also visited the mountain springs which was believed to have medicinal value in the 18th century (Wilson, 2009).

The ranges provided cool escapes for the elites from the lowland sides and which beautiful hotels were built. Today the states are focusing on how they can promote tourism in the region and at the same time conserving the local communities (Wilson, 2009).


Education has lagged behind due to struggle with funding from the government and people failing to recognize its importance. In early years, education curriculum was based on Christian morality and learning how to read the bible (Polakow, 2004).

Learning was done in small rooms and children came to school when they were not needed in the farms. After the war, education became compulsory and the state helped in the building of the new schools. In that time, many higher learning institutions were established.

During the 19th and 20th era, amenity organizations formed settlement schools mostly in the rural areas (Polakow, 2004). The settlement schools contributed to promotion of culture legacy of Appalachian.

From 2001, many public schools have been losing funding as they try to make sure that every child gets an education (Keefe, 2009).


Appalachia has strongly undergone modern changes, which have made the states to become developed. However, compared with other non-Appalachian’s states show they still lag behind, as most non-Appalachian states are far more technologically advanced.

Reference List

Billings, D. B., and Blee, K. M. (2000) The Road to Poverty: The Making Of Wealth And Hardship In Appalachia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Henry, D. (1986) Appalachia on Our Mind: The Southern Mountains and Mountaineers in the American Consciousness, 1870-1920, Massachusetts: Shapiro Publisher

Keefe, S. E. (2009) Participatory Development in Appalachia: Cultural Identity, Community, and Sustainability, Tennessee: Univ. of Tennessee Press

Kiffmeyer, T. (2008) Reformers to Radicals: The Appalachian Volunteers and the War on Poverty, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky

Langman, R. C. (1971) Appalachian Kentucky: An Exploited Region Selected Studies in the United States, New York: McGraw-Hill Ryerson

Leonard, B.J. (1999) Christianity in Appalachia: Profiles in Regional Pluralism, Tennessee: Univ. of Tennessee Press

Polakow, V. (2004) Shut Out: Low Income Mothers and Higher Education in Post- Welfare America, New York: SUNY Press

Starnes, R.D. (2005) Creating the Land of the Sky: Tourism and Society in Western North Carolina: The Modern South, Alabama: University of Alabama Press

Weise, R. S. (2001) Grasping At Independence: Debt, Male Authority, and Mineral Rights in Appalachian Kentucky, 1850-1915, Tennessee: Univ. of Tennessee Press

Williams, J.A.(2002) Appalachia: A History, North Carolina: UNC Press Books

Wilson, G. S. (2009) Communities Left Behind: The Area Redevelopment Administration, 1945-1965, Tennessee: Univ. of Tennessee Press

Yarnell, S. 1999. Southern Appalachians: History of the Landscape, Pennsylvania: DIANE Publishing

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