chapter  20
Coal and the Future of the Appalachian Economy
WithWilliam H. Miernyk
Pages 12

There is an ancient association between coal and economic backwardness in Appalachia. Generations of Appalachian miners labored in “dog-holes” for little more than a subsistence wage. Even in large, unionized mines wages lagged behind those of industrial workers until recently. Aggressive competition in coal markets kept the price of coal low, and low prices were reflected in low wages. Add to this the historic instability of the coal industry, the ever present danger of mining as an occupation and the environmental damage it has caused, and one can understand the ambivalent attitudes of many Appalachians toward their most important natural resource.