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Old 07-12-2010, 08:59 AM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,198,809 times
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Default Why people in Pittsburgh don't like the term Appalachia

We've discussed this issue a bit here, but I thought this map from the Appalachian Regional Commission was illuminating. First the methodology behind the map:

Quote:
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) uses an index-based county economic classification system to identify and monitor the economic status of Appalachian counties. The system involves the creation of a national index of county economic status through a comparison of each county's averages for three economic indicators—three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate—with national averages. The resulting values are summed and averaged to create a composite index value for each county. Each county in the nation is then ranked, based on its composite index value, with higher values indicating higher levels of distress.

County Economic Levels

Each Appalachian county is classified into one of five economic status designations, based on its position in the national ranking.

Distressed
Distressed counties are the most economically depressed counties. They rank in the worst 10 percent of the nation's counties.

At-Risk
At-Risk counties are those at risk of becoming economically distressed. They rank between the worst 10 percent and 25 percent of the nation's counties.

Transitional
Transitional counties are those transitioning between strong and weak economies. They make up the largest economic status designation. Transitional counties rank between the worst 25 percent and the best 25 percent of the nation's counties.

Competitive
Competitive counties are those that are able to compete in the national economy but are not in the highest 10 percent of the nation's counties. Counties ranking between the best 10 percent and 25 percent of the nation's counties are classified competitive.

Attainment
Attainment counties are the economically strongest counties. Counties ranking in the best 10 percent of the nation's counties are classified attainment.
And here is the most recent map:



You can see the huge cluster of Depressed (bottom 10%) counties down in Eastern Kentucky. As you move northeast through Southeast Ohio and West Virginia the mix improves, and in the Pittsburgh region it is mostly up to Transitional, with the core Pittsburgh counties being Competitive.

And I think a big part of the reason why people in the Pittsburgh region resist an Appalachian identification is that they want to distance the region from the economic struggles of the parts of Appalachia to the southwest.
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Old 07-12-2010, 09:12 AM
 
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Some more maps:

HS completion from 2000:



College completion (2000):



Per capita income (2007):



Poverty rates (2000):



Unemployment (2008)--interesting how WV does a bit better here:



And here are "subregions" defined by the ARC:



Not really a surprise how they drew those subregion lines, in light of the other maps. Pittsburgh would be in "Northern" Appalachia, and it is notably distinct from North-Central Appalachia (SE Ohio and most of WV), and even more distinct from Central Appalachia (East Kentucky and bits of adjacent states).
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Old 07-12-2010, 09:50 AM
 
Location: Westmoreland County, PA
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Quote:
And I think a big part of the reason why people in the Pittsburgh region resist an Appalachian identification is that they want to distance the region from the economic struggles of the parts of Appalachia to the southwest.
I don't think the reason is economic. I think they want to separate themselves from the perception of Appalachia as a backwoods, inbred, hick area (which isn't fair either). I don't think most people see it as a geographical designation, but as a social one (incorrectly).
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Old 07-12-2010, 09:59 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pic-chic View Post
I don't think the reason is economic. I think they want to separate themselves from the perception of Appalachia as a backwoods, inbred, hick area (which isn't fair either). I don't think most people see it as a geographical designation, but as a social one (incorrectly).
I think that is part of it too, but I do think "poor" is high on the list of undesirable traits that people associate with Appalachia. And "uneducated" too, which really straddles the line between the social and the economic.

Or to flip it around, imagine if central Appalachia was thriving economically, with much higher incomes, much lower poverty rates, and so on. Would Pittsburghers be so resistant to the idea of being classified as "Appalachian" in a such a hypothetical situation?

Personally, I think it would work out sort of like "Midwestern"--people associate that word with traditional rural areas, agriculture, and so on, but people in cities in the Midwest don't necessarily have a problem with the term (e.g., people won't really care if you call Chicago a Midwestern city). And I think that is in large part because people don't associate "Midwestern" with "poor" and "uneducated".
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Old 07-12-2010, 10:42 AM
 
Location: About 10 miles north of Pittsburgh International
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Quote:
I think they want to separate themselves from the perception of Appalachia as a backwoods, inbred, hick area ...
I think we want to distance ourselves from the perception that it's poor and uneducated because of being a backwoods, inbred, hick area, (or vice versa)....

When you think of Appalachia, you're supposed to think of Jed Clampett. He's the stereotype.

(Don't want to get off topic, but my mind just made the leap to a "New Beverly Hillbillies" show, featuring a nouveau riche family of yinzers, having made a fortune from Marcellus gas beneath their Lawrenceville rowhouse...)
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Old 07-12-2010, 10:43 AM
 
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2000 and 2008? I would toss those charts away.
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Old 07-12-2010, 10:54 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr1234 View Post
2000 and 2008? I would toss those charts away.
I agree that absolute values will have changed, but I'm not sure there will be a big change in relative values--in fact if anything, I would bet on the gap between Northern Appalachia and Central Appalachia having grown since 2000, and maybe since 2008 too.
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:08 AM
 
Location: S.W.PA
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I look at these regional designation in terms of geology. I think one could say that the Appalachian region is that area between two agricultural regions (midwest and east coast) whose resources historically came from below the ground. The mining industry has created a unique culture, having been (and continuing to be) an industry that has been exploitative of its people as well as its land. The coal barons for example, had to import people to do this dirty work. There were plenty of down and out eastern Europeans, Irish, and Welsh around the turn of the century who were willing to do just about anything. In addition, once the coal (or stone) was out of the ground, little if anything was done to repair the landscape, so you have vast gashes as well as piles of waste, or culm, throughout the region. The net effect to the culture is a population of uneducated people with a self image problem. This legacy has been passed down thru the generations.
Pittsburgh is definitely part of this history. Fortunately there were other things happening here which allowed it to prosper.
By the way, my "definition" would suggest that maybe the maps are a bit more extensive than they should be, especially at the northern and southern ends.
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:22 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
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One PA county I'm surprised is only considered transitional is Centre County with University Park. Considering how well they were doing in the recession I thought they would be in Competitive.
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:24 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh
1,758 posts, read 2,359,736 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr1234 View Post
2000 and 2008? I would toss those charts away.

If that is the case, are we to assume that Pittsburgh is closer to the Central Appalachia/Eastern Kentucky region in terms of economy and education level? These charts show that the Pittsburgh region is one of a stable economy with an educated population. Like Brian said, if anything, the numbers have probably favored Pittsburgh even more within the last two years given recent studies on education and economy.
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