The causes of poverty in Appalachia include a lack of job opportunities and public services, a rural environment and health hazards. These causes are widespread and typically considered to be generational in nature.
The Appalachian region extends more than 1,000 miles (1609 km) along the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi in the United States. The area is commonly considered rural, with nearly half of its residents engaged in agriculture, mining, and heavy industry. Slightly over 40 percent of Appalachia's population of over 24 million residents is rural. The quality of education in rural areas such as Appalachia may also be substandard, especially in low-income counties. Rural youth in the United States do not tend to aspire to college degrees with the frequency of urban and rural students, and less education may translate into lower earning power.
Appalachia commonly has a difficult time attracting quality industries and higher-paying jobs to the area. This may be due in part to a lack of basic public services. Poor communities often do not have the resources to fund water and waste water improvements. Without the adequate infrastructure,companies may be reluctant to go to Appalachia. As a result, the residents typically rely on the limited industries located close to their homes for work, which contributes to poverty in Appalachia.
Because of the lack of basic public services, public and environmental health hazards are sometimes present in Appalachia. More than one fourth of the Appalachian residents are not served by a community water system and must rely on private wells for their drinking water needs. Nearly half of all households have on-site waste water disposal as opposed to community utility systems. Poor health may increase the odds that people will fall into and remain in poverty.
Many communities in Appalachia lack telecommunications infrastructure because access to telephone and Internet service can be difficult to provide to rural areas without adequate funding. The long-term poverty in Appalachia may be sustained by a lack of these vital services. For example, without telecommunications, school districts are unable to provide distance learning programs for rural students. The lack of high-speed Internet access in Appalachia also adds to its challenge in attracting new businesses.
Discrimination based upon race, economic class, and gender is sometimes present in rural areas like Appalachia. This discrimination may continue to block opportunities for those who may have who lived in poverty for generations. Long-term neglect regarding the needs of the poor can result in the generational poverty in Appalachia.