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Hillbilly Elegy: Appalachia Demographics

The resource guide for the 2017-18 Common Experience book selection, J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy"



The Appalachian region stretches across some thirteen states along the eastern portion of the United States. The area contains some of the most diverse geography, cultures, and traditions in the entire country. This page captures just a few of the many glimpses at some of these wide-ranging demographics. Feel free to use this information as an entry point into discussions, projects, or other forms of critical analysis for classes and events, or as a way to augment the reading of Hillbilly Elegy. The possibilities are as adventurous and wide open as the Appalachian Trail itself. Explore!

African Influences

African Culture in Appalachia

African Americans in Appalachia

Dr. Athnea Webb from the The Oxford African American Studies Center offers an extensive overview of African American history within the Appalachians. In this piece, Webb examines demographical and cultural stereotypes by laying out a clear and concise history. The piece also offers a list of additional reads to help supplement the information given.

Appalachian White

A Counter-Narrative to Appalachia's "Whitewashing"

Vance discusses white, working class social problems in Appalachia. Through the talk, he talks about cultural, familial, and cultural identity issues.

Whitewashing Reality: Diversity in Appalachia

This article offers a counter-narrative to the notion of the Appalachians as a purely whitewashed, coal mining region.

Immigrants in the Coalfields                                                                                  
Heidi-Caudill and Whitney Hays

This insightful and visually stimulating article offers a wealth of information about the history, contributions, and diversity of Appalachian coal miners. Inside, you will also find many leads, timelines, and points of reference.

Appalachian Regional commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission is dedicated to strengthening the economic conditions in Appalachia. In doing so, they are highly invested in the people, the land, and infrastructure. As a result, the ARC has collected a great deal of demographic data that is helpful in understanding the Appalachian region. Click here to see more.

Hispanic and Latino Influences

Latino and Hispanics in Appalachia


The New American South: Latinos Make Their Mark in an Appalachian City

Marco Werman and Sam Harnett explore the Latino population that makes up a large majority of Dalton, Georgia. Along with the article, the piece also contains a podcast with an insightful look at diversity in the Appalachian region.


What might the thirteen-fold Hispanic population increase in Nashville, Tennessee say about the changing demographics in the Appalachians? What changes, challenges, and possibilities exist?


Census Data in Appalachia

The Appalachian Region in 2010: A Census Data Overview

This link provides an extensive data-driven report regarding census information about the Appalachian region.