March 26, 2015


This photo, in the latest Economist, just reeks of fascination:

For one thing, the utter inaccessibility.  To even try to approach such a house would likely get you killed. You don't go to a holler unaccompanied.

Second, the disparity between the girl and the house.  The house is falling down, ugly, neglected. The girl is none of those things. She's dressed in nice clothes, her hair braided. The shoes, crocs, seem well-suited for the muddy environment.

Looks like there's even a satellite dish on the house. Priorities seem reasonable:  personal appearance first, puppy care, and entertainment.  Home improvement projects last.

The article says that poverty in Appalachia has decreased significantly over the past fifty years due to food stamps and other government programs, but health has decreased, reflected in higher relative mortality rates.

IN THE hills around Paintsville, a small town in eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian region, some of the nicer houses have paths that wind from the front porch up to a gate. Through these gates family cemeteries with headstones and brightly coloured imitation flowers can be glimpsed. These hallowed patches of ground help to explain one of the things that puzzles outsiders about Appalachia: why the people who live there remain so attached to a place that has been a byword for rural poverty for at least half a century.

Cynthia Duncan, a sociologist who recently returned to Appalachia to update “Worlds Apart”, an influential book on persistent poverty first published in 1999, says that though poor schooling and a fondness for a familiar landscape do tether people to the mountains, Appalachia’s poorest residents also have a remarkable capacity for resilience when faced with hardship, of which they have seen plenty.

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