Coal in America: Chronicling and Analyzing Its Economic and Social History (2018-2019)

Coal has been an historically important energy resource in the United States. It remains important in many parts of the country but has experienced a recent severe decline that seems likely to continue.

This project team explored the trend away from coal and the factors influencing coal-related employment through two distinct databases: the U.S. economic census records of coal production and employment; and a set of oral histories gathered from the central Appalachian coalfields by the Coal and America Story+ team in Summer 2018.

Team members also studied the decline in coal employment in Appalachia from 1946 to 1962. This research provided a quantitative complement to the descriptive qualitative research, as well as guidance for an in-depth analysis of specific industry trends across several time periods. The team found the decline of coal-related jobs to be attributable to reduced demand, increased mechanization and possible exercise of market power.

In 2019-2020, the team plans to expand data entry and validation to other parts of the United States and broaden the scope of the analysis to include additional time periods.


Fall 2018 – Spring 2019  

Team Outputs

Coal in America: Chronicling and Analyzing Its Economic and Social History (poster by Elena Cavallero, Nicole Lindbergh, Blake McCann, Merle Nye, Morgan Ruff, Anisha Watwe, Mary Helen Wood, Katherine Comer, Roman Gilmintinov, Jun Shepard, Tyler Stoff, Alexander Yoshizumi, Lori Bennear, Jonathon Free, Brian Murray, William Niver, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)


Coal in America: Chronicling and Analyzing Its Economic and Social History

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Level Up With Story+

See related team, Coal and America: Coal Communities in Transition (2019-2020), and related Story+ summer project, Coal and America: Stories from the Central Appalachian Coalfields (2018).

three team members posing in front of a statue of a coal miner

Team Leaders

  • Lori Bennear, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Jonathon Free, Energy Initiative

/graduate Team Members

  • Katherine Comer, Masters of Public Policy
  • Roman Gilmintinov, History-PHD
  • Jun Shepard, Earth and Ocean Sciences-PHD
  • Tyler Stoff, Masters of Public Policy
  • Alexander Yoshizumi, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment, Geospatial Analysis

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Elena Cavallero, Economics (BS)
  • Nicole Lindbergh, History (AB), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Blake McCann, Economics (BS)
  • Merle Nye, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Morgan Ruff, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Anisha Watwe, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Mary Helen Wood, History (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Brian Murray, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • William Niver, Energy Initiative

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Appalachian Citizens Law Center