WV Center on Budget and Policy > Publications > Family Economic Security > Children and Families > Child Poverty in West Virginia: A Growing and Persistent Problem

Child Poverty in West Virginia: A Growing and Persistent Problem

February 19, 2013 by and

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) report, this new report revisits many of the same measures of well-being that ARC researchers examined a half-century ago. This analysis, however, focuses its attention on West Virginia, the one state that exists entirely within the federally designated Appalachian region, and, more specifically, on the children of West Virginia. Read PDF of report

While inflation has dramatically altered the numbers, many of the disparities persist. West Virginia still lags behind most states in educational attainment, employment and per capita income, while remaining a front-runner in poverty. Within West Virginia, age and racial differences in poverty rates continue, with African American children being the poorest residents of all.

Among these discouraging statistics, however, one promising trend line stands out. When the ARC report was published, a staggering 40 percent of seniors (65 and older) in West Virginia lived in poverty. Due largely to Social Security, that rate has dropped by three-quarters to about 10 percent today.

Perhaps the most crucial questions that emerge from the updated graphs are these: if we applied to children the rigorous anti-poverty effort that so stunningly reduced poverty among our seniors, could we achieve the same positive impact on measures of child well-being? And if we can muster the public and political will to take such action, what might West Virginia’s economy and quality of life look like in the next 10, 20 or 50 years?

This goal of this report is to provide timely and useful information to help West Virginians reduce child poverty and its tragic effects. It provides an overview of the effects of poverty on children and society (Section 1), an explanation of how poverty is measured (Section 2), an in-depth profile of child poverty in West Virginia (Section 3), and an examination of past and present policy responses to the problem (Section 4).