Date of Award

12-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Charles S. Aiken

Committee Members

Thomas Bell, Lydia M. Pulsipher, Benita J. Howell

Abstract

The incidence of poverty in rural areas is actually higher than that in urban places. This study fills a gap in geographic research by examining poverty in rural and small town communities in east Tennessee using the 1990 census. A cluster analysis of high poverty block groups identifies different categories of poor. Just as “who is poor?” varies across the United States, “who is poor?” in east Tennessee varies. The identity of the poor in rural east Tennessee is found to be contrary to popular images of povery in Appalachia.

The massive reorganization of rural economies in recent decades is reshaping rural places and communities. Economic restructuring and social re-composition have directly affected employment and wage opportunities in rural areas, and have indirectly affected access to services such as affordable housing. The impact of the larger process of economic restructuring on urban environments and on urban neighborhood residents has been examined. There remains a need to examine the impact of these macro-level changes on rural communities and residents.

Within the context of rural economic and social change, this study provides a detailed examination of the characteristics and composition of the poor in rural east Tennessee. Case-study analyses of a sample of high poverty rural block groups sheds light on the effects of restructuring on the residents of small communities and rural places. With increased knowledge of the characteristics of the poor in rural east Tennessee, comes the opportunity to improve poverty alleviation policy.

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