Social Capital, Place Identity, and Economic Conditions in Appalachia




Holtkamp, Christopher

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Awareness is growing that conventional economic development, characterized by activities such as business recruitment, industrial park and infrastructure development, and incentives funded by government agencies, has had limited success in many persistently distressed communities. This has been especially true in the American Appalachian region, where decades of intervention have not solved instances of entrenched poverty and other social challenges across the region. To address these limitations, there is growing interest in alternative strategies, including the development of social capital, to affect economic change in Appalachia. Social capital can be defined as the networks and relationships among members of a community expressed through norms of behavior including altruism, trust, and reciprocity. This research utilizes a mixed methods approach to explore the relationship between social capital and economic outcomes in the Appalachian region. Additionally, I explore the relationship of place identity as an indicator of social capital in its own right and its influence on behavioral indicators of social capital including trust, reciprocity, and altruism. First, using existing measures of social capital and economic distress, I determine if a spatial relationship exists between social and economic conditions in Appalachia. Second, I introduce the concept of place identity as an additional measure of social capital to determine its role in economic outcomes. Finally, I explore the relationship of place identity and social capital at the individual level using economic games with participants in an Appalachian town. My research provides quantitative, and importantly, spatial understanding of the relationship between social capital and economic conditions in Appalachia. Additionally, it brings a geographic perspective to research that has largely been conducted by sociologists and economists, providing new insight and a deeper understanding of this relationship.



Social capital, Place identity, Appalachia, Economic outcomes


Holtkamp, C. (2018). <i>Social capital, place identity, and economic conditions in Appalachia</i> (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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