The impact of federal policies in Appalachia, USA
The role of the public policy process as a factor in geographical change is examined by means of a study of US public policy in the lagging region of Appalachia. A review of the socio-economic problems of this region, and of US government attempts to overcome these problems, identifies the difficulty of drawing conclusions on the basis of attempting to reconcile opposing value systems at the full regional level. In order to enhance the depth of geographical analysis possible, a detailed study of a sample of Local Development Districts (LDDs) within Appalachia is taken up in order to assess the working out of public policy at the local level. Quantifiable census data of economic and demographic variables are used to provide a foundation against which the opinions of LDD staff can be evaluated. In a synthesis of this data it is shown that major improvements have taken place in the quality of life of the people of Appalachia between 1960 and 1980; that over this period the LDDS have provided an important catalytic role, both in bringing local-scale infrastructure to largely rural areas, and in developing local involvement in decision-making; and that there is little ground for suggesting that local development would have taken place on such a scale without the LDD presence. The conclusions drawn from this study are that the public policy process should be regarded as a major factor in the explanation of geographical change; that the best application of public policy is through the marriage of different scales of infrastructure provision and geographical unit; that both public policy and theoretical modelling should recognise the dynamic nature of society; and that geographers can make important contributions to the public policy process.