Hillbilly Elegy Author J.D. Vance on Poverty and the Opioid Epidemic

Hillbilly Elegy Author J.D. Vance on Poverty and the Opioid Epidemic


– Why do you think that the
opioid epidemic has taken hold so dramatically in West Virginia, parts of Ohio, in this region? – Well, I think that it’s largely because these areas used
to be incredibly hopeful and optimistic about the future, but, in some ways, they’ve
seen the rug really pulled from under them in the
past 20 or 30 years. They’ve seen what used to
be a relatively promising, stable, working or
middle class opportunity, completely disappear, and, because of that, many
folks are pretty despairing about the future, and, when that happens, I think, it’s not that surprising
that some of these drugs start to move in. – And, how do you turn that around? – Well, I think the answer has to start with our education system, actually. So many of these jobs
that have disappeared from these areas, just aren’t coming back. They haven’t disappeared
so much from globalization or from shipping them overseas, they’ve largely disappeared
because of automation, and because of new technological change, and the only way to
really address that crisis is to actually train people
for the next generation of high quality jobs. And, I think right now,
a lot of folks feel that when they graduate from high school, they’re effectively given an option between go work in a service sector job making seven or eight dollars an hour, or go to a four-year degree, and there’s really no,
there’s nothing in between. There are no options in
between and, consequently, a lot of folks don’t see much opportunity. – Do you have any advice
for the Trump administration on education, as it
comes in, or Betsy DeVos, if she’s confirmed as
the Education Secretary? – Yeah, I think, the only
piece of advice I’ll offer is to recognized that so many of the next generation
of jobs require training and skills that we’re not necessarily preparing our kids for right now, and to the degree we can focus not on how we can bring jobs back from China, but how we can prepare
people for the 21st Century knowledge economy, I think
that’s a very important part of actually solving these
very significant regional economic crises that we have
in places like West Virginia or Ohio. So, my advice is focus on
post-secondary education and how we can give kids more pathways to the middle class.

One thought on “Hillbilly Elegy Author J.D. Vance on Poverty and the Opioid Epidemic

  1. I hate to say it as a resident of a place much like the areas JD describes, the single most common factor I've seen in people becoming highly successful is…they leave. Not only are opportunities multiplied exponentially, but the peer and family pressures tend to destroy whatever success one can achieve in that dysfunctional bubble. "Family first!" sounds good and noble, in truth it often leads to nothing more than enabling bad decisions, and draining resources of the family members who are working hard and making good choices.

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