Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Nicky Tynan




Much research has been done on regional economic development across the United States, most of which focuses on the role of agriculture in Western states, the high levels of poverty among the Southern states and the Appalachian region, and the urban poverty of Northern coastal cities such as New York City and Washington D.C. However, the Mid-Atlantic region, particularly its rural areas, has not received comparable attention. This paper fills this gap and evaluates the state of the rural Mid-Atlantic economy (Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland).1 Section 1 provides an overview of definitions and methodology used in the paper. Section 2 examines the rural economic history of the Mid-Atlantic region and shows that there was significant urban-rural convergence from 1940-1980 while there were mostly strong divergence trends from 1980-present. Since the Great Recession, remote rural areas have been hardest hit in terms of stagnant economic growth and population losses and are also facing issues surrounding the rapidly aging population in the region. Section 3 describes the current state of the rural Mid-Atlantic economy in terms of the prominent industries in the region with particular focus given to manufacturing, recreation, and self-employment industries. Both theoretical and empirical evidence is given to assess the current state of the region’s rural economy and to show how the region’s economy will likely change in the immediate future. Section 4 outlines the state of rural broadband in the United States and the Mid-Atlantic states in particular. It also shows the lack of effectiveness of national programs (like the RUS) and the success of local efforts to expand rural broadband internet. Finally, Section 5 describes how a place-based economic development framework operates in both theory and practice. Findings from the previous sections are synthesized with this framework to form a place-sensitive rural economic development plan for the Mid-Atlantic region.