Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Applied Economics and Statistics

Committee Member

Michael Vassalos

Committee Member

David Willis

Committee Member

William Bridges


This thesis uses county-level Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Form 477 and Appalachian Regional Commission data to examine factors that affect socioeconomic health, with a particular focus on the impact of household broadband adoption, in rural areas of the Appalachian United States. Outcome variables of interest are percentage of people in poverty, per capita market income (i.e., the income one earns from participating in the economy through wages, investments, business income and the like), and number of excess deaths per 100,000 residents. The first chapter uses two multivariate multiple regression models, one using 2008 data and one using 2016 data, to assess the impact of household fixed broadband connections per thousand residents, education (as measured by high school graduation rate), unemployment rate, and county economic dependency, on income and percent of people under the poverty line in two time periods.

The second chapter uses an Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression to evaluate the relationship between rurality and excess mortality when socioeconomic variables, including broadband adoption, percent of adults with high school degrees, unemployment rate, percent of people in poverty, per capita market income, and county economic dependency, are controlled for. The results for the first two models depict a statistically significant and negative association between low levels of broadband adoption and income in counties, and a statistically significant negative association between low levels of broadband and percent of people in poverty in 2016. There was no significant association between broadband and excess mortality, but these results do suggest that socioeconomic factors play a larger role in contributing to excess mortality than whether a county is rural or urban. In particular, transfer payments (i.e., government aid) were positively and significantly associated with higher levels of excess mortality. Establishing causality remains an important consideration when assessing policy aimed at improving rural quality of life through increased broadband availability and adoption, and should be a central influence on policy and funding decisions going forward. Improving data quality and accuracy should also be a priority going forward, as this is necessary for determining whether funding programs are producing tangible benefits.



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