Sustained Outrage

New Census data: One in six West Virginians living in poverty


More than 300,000 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2008, according to new data from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau yesterday.

That translates into 17.4 percent of all residents (or slightly more than one in six).

For children, the numbers are even worse: 90,000 (23.9 percent) under the age of 18, and 32,000 (31.1 percent) of children under the age of five lived in poverty. (I’ve rounded the estimates but not the percentages.)

Worse still, all of those numbers are creeping up from 2007, after a slight improvement from 2006.

Nationally, only Louisiana (17.6) and Mississippi (20.8) had higher percentages of their population living below the poverty line. And at $37,528, West Virginia had the lowest median household income in the United States.

The data can also be broken down by county and school district. Staggeringly, an estimated 46.3 percent of people under the age of 18 in McDowell County lived in poverty. This is almost two times higher than Kanawha County (23.5), three times higher than Monongalia County (15.2) and four times Jefferson County (11.1, the lowest percentage of all 55 counties).