A new report released recently by the Appalachian Regional Commission paints a picture of an Appalachian region that is improving, but still lags behind national averages in several areas.
The report, titled, “The Appalachian Region: A Data Overview from 2013-2017,” also known as the “ARC Chartbook,” draws data from the American Community Survey and Census Population Estimates and contains more than 300,000 data points about Appalachia’s demographics, income and employment, as well as education, computer access, housing, transportation and other areas.
“Making sound policy and effective investments requires good data that is easy to analyze and readily available. That is why the ARC Chartbook is such an important resource for our Region,” said Tim Thomas, ARC Federal co-chair. “For years, the Chartbook has provided unique, Appalachia-focused numbers on economics and demographics. This year, the Chartbook also includes new data on access to broadband and transportation — two critical factors impacting our region’s growth. The Chartbook is a valuable tool for policymakers, researchers, community leaders, and all those who believe in Appalachia’s future.”
Included in the data are several points about the region including:
• Data on population change. According to the ARC, 25.6 million people live in the 420 counties of Appalachia. Since 2010, the data shows, Appalachia’s population has grown 1.4 percent, slower than the nation’s growth of 5.3 percent.
However, locally, the Census estimates for 2017 show a different story — one of declining populations.
According to Census data, populations in the local area of Kentucky fell by 6.3 percent in Floyd County, 1.1 percent in Johnson County, 4.9 percent in Perry County and 5.7 percent in Pike County. The estimates show, however, that one of the greatest local drops in population, according to the 2017 estimates, came in Mingo County, West Virginia, where the population has declined an estimated 16 percent between 2010 and 2017.
• Data on education, including on the number of adults ages 25-64 who have an associate’s degree, an area in which the region exceeds the national average.
According to the ARC data, a total of 9.7 percent of Appalachia’s adults have an associate’s degree, while the national percentage is 9 percent.
Locally, that number is a mixed bag, the data shows, with both Johnson County having 10.1 percent of its population and Perry County having 11 percent of its population ages 25-64 possessing an associate’s degree. The rest of the counties in the region, however, lag behind.
Only 7.5 percent of Floyd County residents ages 25-64 have an associate’s degree, while 7.9 percent of Pike County residents and 7.8 percent of Mingo County residents have that level of degree.
The region and local counties both lag behind the nation in the percentage of adults who have a high school diploma or greater. According to the data, in the United States, 87.3 percent of the population has a high school diploma or greater, while a lesser number — 86.4 percent — have a high school diploma or better in the Appalachian region.
Locally, the average is 76.24 percent, with Johnson County having the greatest percentage (79.7 percent) and Mingo County having the least (74.4 percent).
• Data on the percent of working age adults (ages 25-64) who participate in the civilian labor force.
According to the ARC data, 72.8 percent of Appalachia’s working age adults participate in the labor force, while the U.S. rate is 77.5 percent.
Locally, however, those numbers drop far lower, with only 51.3 percent of Floyd County’s working age adults, 50.2 percent of Johnson County’s working age adults, 56.1 percent of Perry County’s working age adults, 54.7 percent of Pike County’s working age adults and 52.5 percent of Mingo County’s working age adults being reported as being part of the civilian labor force.
• Data on broadband subscriptions. According to the ARC data, Appalachia lags behind the national percentage of 78.1 percent of households with a broadband subscription. Only 72.3 percent of Appalachian households, the data shows, have a broadband subscription.
Locally, the percentages are much smaller, with only 65.6 percent of Floyd County households, 69.7 percent of Johnson County households, 69.5 percent of Perry County households, 67.8 percent of Pike County households and 66.7 percent of Mingo County households having broadband subscriptions.
• Data on median household income. The data shows that Appalachia’s median household income rate ($47,836) is 83% of the U.S. rate ($57,652). According to Census data, Floyd’s median income lags behind both of those at $31,196, while Johnson’s median household income is $35,629, Perry’s median household income is $31,820, Pike’s median household income is $32,972 and Mingo’s median household income is currently $31,227.
The full report, as well as factsheets and other information can be accessed at the ARC’s website, www.arc.gov.