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New ARC Data Shows Regional Disparities in Income, Unemployment, Poverty

Appalachian Regional Commission


Central Appalachia lags behind other part of the region in employment, household income and other key measures. That's according to a new study from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The data comes from the American Community Survey, that’s like a smaller version of the census. It is conducted every five years.

Within Appalachia, different subregions have very different outcomes. In many cases, Central Appalachia, which includes parts of Kentucky and West Virginia, lagged behind other subregions.


Appalachia as a whole has grown in population size by 1.4 percent, well below the national average. Central Appalachia has actually lost population.

Although the region’s poverty rate declined 3 percentage points since the last survey period, Central Appalachia’s poverty rate actually went up.

Central Appalachia had by far the lowest median household income at about $35,000, while the region as a whole was nearly $48,000.

The data is not entirely negative. Wendy Wasserman is a spokesperson for the Appalachian Regional Commission, which produced the research. She said, even though unemployment in Appalachia remains higher than the national average, it still went down across the region.

"That, to me, indicates that there’s a little more economic movement, a little more economic opportunity, and a little more economic optimism," said Wasserman.

Another positive sign is that despite some regional differences, educational outcomes improved across the region.

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