This paper surveys economic research on the association between economic development and urban areas, links this summary to some important trends in economic outcomes in Appalachia in recent decades, highlights areas in need of future research on the role of urban areas as engines of economic development in Appalachia, and discusses what types of place-based policies might be effective to promote economic growth and development in the Appalachian region.

This paper examines changes in the earnings distribution of men age 25-64 between 1960 and 2000 in Appalachia and in the remainder of the U.S. Because Appalachia is more rural than the remainder of the U.S. we also examine changes in the earnings distribution in rural vs. urban areas. Our central finding is that there have been large differences in the evolution of the earnings distribution in rural vs. urban areas and this is the principal reason that Appalachia’s earnings distribution differs to some degree from the remainder of the U.S.

Appalachians are in poor health relative to other Americans. For example, the ageadjusted all cause mortality rate for Appalachian in 2006 was over 900 per 100,000 compared to a rate of 760 per 100,000 for those outside of Appalachia. This essay shows that health disparities start before birth—the incidence of low birth weight is 90 1,000 in rural Appalachia compared to 83 per 1,000 outside the U.S. These disparities continue through childhood and into adulthood.

More than half a million children in the United States are currently in foster care, many of whom are at risk for long-lasting emotional and health problems. Research suggests that adoption may be one of the more promising options for the placement of these children. The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, which provided federal funds for monthly adoption subsidies, was designed to promote adoptions of special-needs children and children in foster care.

Many pressing questions remain regarding the extent, causes, and consequences of senior hunger in America.  Is the threat of senior hunger common across all states in the nation?  Are there differences in hunger risk across urban and rural areas?  In this follow-up study to our 2008 report entitled The Causes, Consequences, and Future of Senior Hunger in America we document the geographic distribution of senior hunger across states and metropolitan location.

Despite trends indicating a recent stabilizing in the upward obesity trend for children and adolescents in the U.S., child overweight remains a significant public health issue. Our analysis finds a nonlinear effect – the poorest and wealthiest children in our sample have the lowest BMIs, while the children in the middle of the SES distribution have the highest.

There are well-documented and as yet unexplained disparities in birth outcomes by race in the United States, even after controlling for socioeconomic status. This paper examines the sources of disparities in low birth weight between blacks and whites in the U.S., by focusing on differences in disparities between two very distinct geographic areas, the Deep South and the rest of the country. Two findings from prior research drive the analyses: First, health overall is worse in the Deep South states; Second, race disparities are smaller in the Deep South than in the rest of the nation.

This paper estimates the impact of the fundamental welfare reforms of the 1990s on the educational attainment of children in low-income families. Using data from national surveys of individuals and administrative records of school districts spanning the period from the early 1990s to the mid 2000s, we estimate the net effects of welfare reform in a difference-indifferences framework.

There is widespread perception that externalities from troubled children are significant, though measuring them is difficult due to data and methodological limitations. We estimate the negative spillovers caused by children from troubled families by exploiting a unique data set in which children’s school records are matched to domestic violence cases. We find that children from troubled families significantly decrease their peers’ reading and math test scores and increase misbehavior in the classroom.

Despite evidence that skilled labor is increasingly concentrated in cities, whether regional wage inequality is predominantly due to differences in skill levels or returns is unknown. We compare Appalachia, with its wide mix of urban and rural areas, to other parts of the U.S., and find that gaps in both skill levels and returns account for the lack of high wage male workers. For women, skill shortages are important across the distribution. Because rural wage gaps are insignificant, our results suggest that widening wage inequality between Appalachia and the rest of the U.S.