Full Title: Socioeconomic Transition in the Appalachia Coal Region: Some Factors of Success
Author(s): Linda Lobao, Mark Partridge, Oudom Hean, Paige Kelly, Seung-hun Chung, Elizabeth Ruppert Bulmer
Publisher(s): World Bank
Publication Date: October 25, 2021
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Economic transition away from dependence on coal mining can be difficult and costly but can yield significant medium-term gains. As nations move away from coal production and coal-based energy generation, the transition creates short-term economic disruption to coal communities, notably through job losses and severe economic recession. In the medium term, however, transition can generate ‘winners’, both locally and in other regions. Displaced coal sector workers may find jobs in more sustainable and more productive industries. Environmental degradation from mining activities can give way to restoration and conversion of natural resource assets. And both coal and noncoal regions can benefit from reduced pollution and healthier people, directly improving human capital. But local economic downturns can also persist to the point that economic decline threatens a community’s viability. The likelihood of this more pessimistic outcome increases in coal regions that are already lagging their non-coal counterparts in terms of economic well-being. This paper examines the transition away from coal mining in the Appalachia region of the United States and the impact on local communities; the aim is to identify factors that helped some communities transition more successfully than others. The analysis looks beyond traditional economic factors and considers broader social and institutional aspects germane to the community capitals literature. Whether driven by new market realities or the imperative to mitigate climate-change, coal communities in other countries will need to transition to alternative economic activities and can benefit from the experiences of coal regions in Appalachia or elsewhere.