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Southeastern Geographer Vol. 21, No. 1, May 1981, pp. 40-53 APPALACHIA: A COMPARISON OF THE COGNITIVE AND APPALACHIAN REGIONAL COMMISSION REGIONS* Richard Ulack and Karl Raitz A basic analytical tool in geography is the region, and defining appropriate regional boundaries is a useful but often difficult task. In the United States some regions, such as the Midwest, are amorphous and difficult to delimit. Others, such as Appalachia, are quite vivid and have been much studied yet lack definitive boundaries. This paper compares two types of regionalizations as they apply to Appalachia and addresses two questions: 1) how is the Appalachian region delimited by students who attend colleges and universities in or near the region and 2) to what degree do these cognitive regions agree with the region as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)? The ARC regionalization is the most recent and widely known of the various efforts to delimit Appalachia, and a comparison of the cognitive maps of residents from Appalachia and nearby with the ARC region seems appropriate. DEFINING THE APPALACHIAN REGION. The number of attempts to objectively define the Appalachian region—and each attempt has been based upon somewhat different criteria—has prompted Whisnant to observe that "Appalachian boundaries have been drawn so many times by so many different hands that it is futile to look for a correct definition of the region." (J ) One of the first to draw a boundary based upon physiography was Nevin Fenneman. (2) This region included the area from northern Alabama to Newfoundland, but geographers have often abbreviated it to include only that portion south of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys in New York. Fenneman's region includes all or parts of the Appalachian Plateaus, the Ridge and Valley, t_he Blue Ridge, and the * The authors wish to thank all of the college faculty members and students who participated in the study. They also acknowledge the support of the University of Kentucky Research Foundation and of Robert Cromley of the Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, who wrote the program that enabled us to produce the maps accompanying this study. Drs. Ulack and Raitz are Associate Professors of Geography at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY 40506. Vol. XXI, No. 1 41 Piedmont physiographic subprovinces. A subsequent delimitation ofthe region was made by John C. Campbell in The Southern Highlander and His Homeland. (3) Campbell's region corresponded in large part with the boundaries ofthe physiographic divisions and included 256 counties in nine states. He chose to exclude Appalachia north of the MarylandPennsylvania border (Mason-Dixon Line), apparently because he believed that the relationship between the southern highland people and their environmental situation was critical to understanding their way of life, a relationship that did not necessarily obtain in the northern Appalachian states. Another regionalization, also limited to the southern and central portions of Appalachia, is found in The Southern Appalachian Region: A Survey, edited by sociologist Thomas Ford. (4) This region was based on state economic areas, a concept first used in the 1950 Census to group counties with similar social and economic characteristics . By including counties with low socioeconomic indicators, Ford defined a region that comprised 19 state economic areas, eight metropolitan areas, and included 190 counties in seven southern states. A fourth regionalization was established by the ARC in the mid1960s and includes 397 counties in an area that extends from northeast Mississippi to southern New York. The boundaries of the ARC region were based on both physiographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Those counties included in the region were generally in rugged terrain and had populations characterized by low income, high unemployment, low educational levels, and slow population growth rates. Recognizing the substantial variation within this extensive area, the Commission has established three subregions: Northern, Central, and Southern Appalachia (Fig. 1). A major purpose for the establishment of the ARC and the subsequent delimitation of its region, was to facilitate socioeconomic development. Whether or not effective socioeconomic development can be accomplished within the ARC boundaries is, of course, open to debate . Here Whisnant conjectured that the ". . . A.R.C.—Appalachia is too large and too heterogeneous physically, economically, and politically to be dealt with effectively, even...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-6929
Print ISSN
0038-366X
Pages
pp. 40-53
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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