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Rural Blog: Appalachian Regional Commission report provides update on trends in Appalachia

The Appalachian Regional Commission has released an extensive report detailing trends in Appalachia from 2013 to 2017, including population, education, employment, income, poverty, and broadband access. Most data comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Among the ARC report’s key points:

• Much of Appalachia has lost population since 2010, but some southern parts of the region – East Tennessee and northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia – have grown. (There have long been significant economic and demographic differences among ARC’s five sub-regions; Central Appalachia has most of the region’s economically distressed counties.)

• The overall Appalachian poverty rate is declining slightly overall, but is still higher than the U.S. average and is increasing in Central and North Central Appalachia.

• The unemployment rate for working-age adults is lowest in Northern Appalachia and highest in Central Appalachia.

• The median household income in Appalachia is $47,836, or 83% of the nationwide average of $57,652.

• Minorities made up 18.6% of Appalachia’s population in 2017, up from 16.4% in 2010. In that same timespan, the nation’s minority population rose from 36.2% to 39.3%.

• African Americans are the largest minority population in Appalachia at 9.7%, but Latinos are the fastest-growing (from 4.2% in 2010 to 5.1% in 2017).

• The percentage of Appalachian adults from 25 to 64 with a high-school diploma (88.5%) is almost the same as the nationwide average of 88.6%. 

• Appalachian adults are more likely than the national average to have an associate’s degree but less likely to have a bachelor’s degree.

• 30.7% of Appalachian adults with a bachelor’s degree have one in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field, compared to 34.8% nationwide.

• 94.6% of Appalachia’s labor force is employed, the same as nationwide.

• 31.7% of Appalachian workers work outside the county they live in, compared with 27.6% of U.S. workers.

• 82.2% of Appalachian households have access to a computer, compared to the nationwide average of 87.2%. 

• 63.8% of Appalachian households have access to a smartphone, but only 42.8% have a cellular data plan subscription.

• 72.3% of Appalachian households have a broadband subscription, compared to the U.S. average of 78.1%. Broadband subscriptions are highest in Northern Appalachia and lowest in Central Appalachia.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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