About Appalachia

Appalachia encompasses approximately 200,000 square miles of the mountain region between southern New York and northern Mississippi. Said to have acquired its name by the northern Florida Apalachee Indian tribe, Appalachia literally means “endless mountain range” and includes the following thirteen states:
Map of the Appalachian Region

The roots of Appalachian residents lie mainly in Europeans who were seeking land, freedom and new opportunities. People from England, Scotland, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, Holland and the African continent came to the area in the 1700s, around the time of Daniel Boone. The mountain range is seen as a natural barrier between the region and the outside world. While it has preserved many traditions, kept inhabitants very independent and has made family be of the utmost importance, it also brings a high level of human and geographic isolation.

Coal is abundant in Appalachia, as is iron, petroleum and natural gas. While no longer as important to the economy, timber was once a valuable resource. Scenic beauty abounds with treasures such as the Shenandoah National Park, the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountain ranges and the Appalachian Trail, a popular hiking destination.

Appalachian Citizen Facts

  • Conventionally, the 22 million people who live in the more than 400 counties that make up the Appalachian region live in higher poverty rates, have lower education levels and have limited health care when compared to the rest of the nation
  • Around 2/3 of Appalachian counties are rural and almost half of the region’s residents live in those rural counties
  • 108 of the defined counties are classified as distressed or severely distressed in terms of per capita income and unemployment rates
  • There are more instances of disability and serious illnesses compounded with little contact with physicians and access to health care (Facts from the Intercultural Cancer Council)
  • In some areas of Appalachia, up to 16.8% of homes are classified as substandard – having more people than rooms and no indoor plumbing

Appalachian Kentucky Facts

  • Seven counties in Eastern Kentucky are part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s list of the 50 poorest counties in the country
  • Owsley County ranks as the seventh poorest county in the nation – in 1997, nearly 65% of children were considered poor. Currently, the estimate is just over 50%
  • County rates of poverty among children under the age of 18 range from 17% to 52%
  • Nearly 2/3 of Kentuckians on welfare in 1999 worked jobs paying less than $8 an hour. 13% percent work the night shift and 23% work various shifts, making childcare a challenge
  • Close to 60% of children living in CAP’s direct service area are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches
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