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Month: May 2017

Men Disappear from Rust Belt as Unemployment and Addiction Rise

“They’re all on dope or they’re dying up here,” one Ohio woman says of men in a recent Atlantic piece, investigating the burden of male demise in the Rust Belt region (theatlantic.com).

Many cities in West Virginia and elsewhere have deindustrialized. CC Image courtesy of Tim Kiser on Wikimedia Commons.

As the article explains, the exodus of manufacturing jobs starting in the 1950s and 60s in industrialized regions of the Northeast, Midwest, and Appalachia sowed the seeds for a major crisis among Rust Belt males. As stable, respectable jobs departed, many faced chronic unemployment and/or completely departed from the workforce, discouraged from continued rejection. This is especially true in areas of Ohio, like Middletown, where Go Big Read author J.D. Vance grew up. In regions in southern Ohio, 42% of men are either jobless or out of the labor market, compared to the national average rate of roughly 20% (theatlantic.com). For those that found jobs, it was not in Dayton, Utica, or Pittsburgh, but in more service-based economies like Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York. Formerly impressive industrial cities of Detroit, Gary, Buffalo, Charleston (West Virginia), and Cincinnati now have deteriorating populations. In Detroit alone, the population loss has been astounding- diminishing from 1,850,000 to 675,000 over the course of the last 60 years (detroitnews.com). For those men that remained in Rust Belt cities and small towns, without opportunity for retraining, education, or employment, many turned to drugs, particularly opioids. As drug abuse has increased in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, many men eventually lose their lives.

Detroit by the 1880s had emerged as a growing center for industry. In 1880, it was the 18th largest city in the U.S.

The Detroit skyline in 1942. At the time, it was the 4th largest city in the country and had booming industry.

Detroit, today, functions as the symbolic city of the Rust Belt. It is now not even in the top 20 most populous cities. CC Image courtesy of Albert Duce on Wikimedia Commons.

As the article highlights, deindustrialization, unemployment, and drug addiction have the Rust Belt devoid of men. For instance, in Kanawha County, West Viriginia, an area that has seen upwards of a 55% loss in manufacturing and some of the most concentrated rates of opioid overdoses in the country, women outnumber men 100:93 (whitehouse.gov). This is a dramatic divergence from the natural rate of roughly 100:99 and this trend is widespread throughout the region. With such losses, women in particular – wives, mothers, sisters, and partners of the unemployed and addicted men – are left to “pick up the pieces,” raising children and supporting households financially (theatlantic.com). The region has seen declining marriage rates and increasing proportions of single-parent homes.

Opioids have become an epidemic in recent years, particularly in the Rust Belt.

This single reality is hard for many: lack of second incomes, emotional support, and shared childcare responsibilities weigh heavy on an individual. Many women have defaulted on their mortgages after their partner’s overdose, while others care for upwards of five children by themselves. For anybody, whether man or woman, these kinds of Rust Belt burdens are overwhelming. In this year’s Go Big Read book, Hillbilly Elegy, J.D.’s Mamaw lived out this reality, supporting her grandchildren while her own daughter battled addiction. This immense responsibility always weighed on her.

Hopefully, heightened attention to the region’s struggles and the increasing need for action against opioid abuse will begin to reverse these heavy burdens many Rust Belt women face.

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant

Integrate Latest Go Big Read Book into your Course!

On Tuesday, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced the title of the forthcoming 2017-18 Go Big Read book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance.

Seeing as a key component of the Go Big Read program is the incorporation of the book into academic courses across campus, it’s once more time to consider curricular integration! Some classes will use the book on their required reading lists, while others will offer themes related to the book as optional topics for papers and presentations. The possibilities are truly endless. Furthermore, all students who are enrolled in these participating courses will receive a free copy of the book and will benefit from the critical thinking and discussions the text may inspire.

Last year’s text–Pulitzer Prize winning text, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American Cityby esteemed sociologist and UW alum Matthew Desmond–was incorporated into over 100 diverse courses, ranging from Botany 265: Rainforests and Coral Reefs to Dance 011: Contemporary Dance I and from Genetics 562: Human Cytogenetics to Urban and Regional Planning 590: Making Health Matter in Planning, just to name a few.

Curricular integration and discussion is a key component of the Go Big Read program.

Students gain key critical thinking skills from reading, discussing, and completing assignments about the Go Big Read text.

Like EvictedHillbilly Elegy can be worked into a wide range of classroom spaces, including, but not limited to courses within the studies of Anthropology, Athletic Training, Biology, Communication Arts, Community and Environmental Sociology, Community and Nonprofit Leadership, Economics, Elementary Education, English, Gender and Women’s Studies, Geography, History, Human Development and Family Studies, Journalism, Landscape Architecture, Legal Studies, Management and Human Resources, Nutritional Sciences, Personal Finance, Political Science, Psychology, Real Estate and Urban Land Economics, Religious Studies, Social Welfare or Social Work, Sociology, and Statistics.

Students discuss A Tale for the Time Being, the Go Big Read book of the 2013-2014 academic year, in the classroom.

We hope to see many professors, students, and community members engaging with the text throughout next year. Support from administrators, community leaders, and professors helps to make our program impactful and relevant each year!

For more information about the book and the topics it touches, please click here.

For more information about how to integrate the text into your classroom or your programming, please click here.

 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is Chosen as the 2017-18 Go Big Read Book

Today, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, announced that the forthcoming 2017-2018 Go Big Read book is to be Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance.

“a deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures”

In Hillbilly Elegy, Vance provides his personal reflection on upward mobility in America seen through the lens of a white, working-class family in the Midwest. The ninth book in the history of the Go Big Read program, this year’s selection offers “a deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures.” The author is acutely aware of the many struggles “hillbilly” populations face—having himself descended from Kentucky “hill people” and grown up in a declining Ohio steel town. (jdvance.com).

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance was recently chosen as the 2017-2018 Go Big Read book.

As the official UW-Madison press release states, “Many have credited the book with providing understanding of the lives of those struggling with economic decline;” however, many critics have questioned whether the text presents an overly simplistic view of “poverty and personal responsibility” (news.wisc.edu).

J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy.

Yet, as Chancellor Blank shares, the nuances presented in the text echo the Go Big Read program’s “history of choosing books with challenging and timely topics” that  “generate a lively conversation about a set of important issues, about which people can agree or disagree” (news.wisc.edu).

We are excited to see what discussions and critical classroom engagement this book will bring to campus next year! For more information on the text and its author, please visit the news.wisc.edu.

Morgan Olsen
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office