Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rural culture of men providing for families might shift as coal's role continues decline in Appalachia

"As the Appalachian coal industry struggles through its current decline, the traditional role of a coal miner's wife, as well as the social structures and culture in certain communities, could be pushed to change," reports Taylor Kuykendall of The State Journal, a business-oriented weekly in Charleston, W.Va.

Many households in Central Appalachia are single-income because of high miner salaries. But now, as coal companies cut jobs because of competition from cheaper natural gas, market forces and increased regulation, wives might have to find jobs to support the household, Kuykendall writes. The male labor-force participation rate in West Virginia was 61.2 percent in 2010, and the female rate was 48.2 percent, according to a West Virginia University College of Business and Economics report.

"It's still possible to earn a substantial salary with a high school diploma because of the coal mines, something unique to Appalachia," WVU family studies professor Jessica Troilo told Kuykendall. "Because the financial culture didn't have to change as it did for many families in the 1970s and 1980s, cultural assumptions about work and providing for one's family, and who should do the providing, didn't have to change." She said she expects those assumptions to begin to change now. This shift has already happened outside the coalfields, Troilo said, as many families now have two income earners. (Read more)

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