Equity & Diversity Video

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

January 6, 2017 2:27

Donald Trump tapped into the worries and economic insecurities of the white working-class by promising to bring back jobs, and author J.D. Vance understands that appeal. Vance, author of the best seller Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, grew up in southeastern Ohio in a family battling addiction and violence but ultimately made it to Yale Law School.

He tells Education Week that families in the Rust Belt have had “the rug really pulled out from under them. They’ve seen what used to be a relatively promising stable working or middle class opportunity completely (disappear).”

Vance says education holds the most promise for turning around the fortunes of people living in these regions, and that what’s needed is technical and vocational education to train people for the next generation of high quality jobs.

Vance says his life could have easily gone the other way, that a lot of “luck and really good people in my life” helped ensure he escaped the poverty and family crises that continue to define the lives of many of his peers. Now Vance is ready to help others.

Currently living in San Francisco and working for a Silicon Valley investment firm, he and his wife are planning to move back to Ohio to start a small nonprofit to focus on improving education and combatting the opioid crisis.

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