US

Highlights from study looking at 50 years of demographic data from Appalachia

The Appalachian Regional Commission asked outside researchers to analyze changes to the 420 counties in the 12 states it serves in the 50 years since the federal-state partnership's creation.

Below are some highlights from their 180-page report.

EMPLOYMENT

While Appalachia had a higher unemployment rate than the country as a whole for many years, the two rates have been closely aligned since around 2001. For example, both the region and the country as a whole had an unemployment rate of around 8 percent in 2012.

However, participation in the workforce has continued to lag in the region. For the four-year period ending in 2012, only about 60 percent of working-age Appalachia residents were in the workforce, compared to 64 percent of the country as a whole.

___

POVERTY

The poverty gap between Appalachia and the rest of the country has gotten smaller during the ARC's tenure. As of 1960, about 31 percent of people in the region were living in poverty, compared to 22 percent nationally. For the four-year period ending in 2012, Appalachia's rate was about 17 percent, less than two percentage points higher than the country as a whole.

___

INCOME

The study found that the gap has narrowed slightly on per capita income in the region. However, the region relies more heavily on government transfer payments — such as social security or unemployment compensation — that currently make up about 24 percent of personal income in the region, compared to 17 nationally.

___

INCREASING ACCESS

The Appalachian Development Highway System includes highways that are meant to better connect parts of Appalachia to the Interstate Highway System. By late 2014, nearly 2,800 miles of the system were either complete, open to traffic or under construction. That represents 90 percent of the miles of highway authorized under the system.

___

AGING POPULATION

The report shows that Appalachia has proportionally fewer young people and proportionally more elderly.

The share of the region's population that is 19 years or younger has fallen from 38 percent in 1970 to around 25 percent in 2012, lower than the national figure. Meanwhile, the share of the region's population that's 65 years or older has grown from around 10 percent in 1970 to about 16 percent in 2012, a couple of percentage points higher than the country as a whole.

___

EDUCATION

While the region has largely caught up to the rest of the country in high school graduation rates, the report acknowledges that more businesses require college degrees or even more advanced education.

In 1970, about 7 percent of Appalachian residents over age 25 had at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 11 percent nationally. For the four-year period ending in 2012, the Appalachian rate had grown to just over 21 percent, while the national rate was slightly less than 29 percent.