Many rural areas in Alabama are underdeveloped and economically depressed. The Black Belt Counties are a subset within Alabama that tend to lag behind other counties and nationwide indicators for social and economic well-being. Targeted placebased policies for economic development and community improvement have resurfaced on the federal policy agenda under the Obama Administration. Place-based policies have the potential to change the condition of places like the Black Belt by adding the place-based approaches to rural development policy. The purpose of this research is to analyze the specific rural needs and policies utilized in the state of Alabama by understanding how public funding per capita has impacted specific socioeconomic and health indicators of the rural population. Specifically, this research aims to identify the needs and policies directed toward the Black Belt Counties of Alabama to provide a basis for a place-based policy model with future directives for policymakers.
The correlation analysis of public funding per capita to Alabama counties reveals an overall lack of statistically significant relationships between funding variables and the economic measures of distress like poverty rates, foreclosure rates, and unemployment rates. The major implication from these results shows a lack of place-based funding. These results as well as the historic struggle of these counties suggest a change in policy for future improvement of the rural Alabama Black Belt.
One of the major contributions of this research is to delineate the policy process by which public funds can reach the rural communities, particularly in the context of Alabama Black Belt. The statistics highlighted in the study provide evidence to the socioeconomic status of the rural Black Belt that only assert to a solution founded on the place-based policy approach. The policy model illustrates the process to reach a comprehensive place-based approach for the Black Belt.