Appalachia - McDowell County,
West Virginia

McDowell County,. once home to over 100,000 residents in the 1950's, helped set many coal mining production records. Through the 1960's and 1970's, the demand for the county's metallurgical coal remained high, and McDowell continued to lead the United States in total coal production.

During the 1980's the central Appalachian region lost more than 70,000 coal mining jobs. Between 1981 and 1992, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Mine Workers union, coal mining employment in the state of West Virginia decreased by more them 53%. No county in the Appalachian region was more severely distressed by these losses than McDowell County. Poverty there is pervasive, unemployment is rampant, health problems are significant and drug abuse is widespread. The failing public school system has been under state control for more than a decade.

The children are suffering. In 1990 50.3% of the children of McDowell County lived in poverty, and it has only worsened. Children are hungry; often don't have shoes or underwear to wear to school, much less warm clothing for the brutal winters, and it is hard for them to concentrate in school while worrying about their depressed and/or drug addicted parents.

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