Number of Poor West Virginians Remains High, Increase in Children Living in Poverty

For Immediate Release

Contact Sean O'Leary 

Poverty remained high in West Virginia last year, with the number of children living in poverty growing. While the state's economy has grown since the end of the recession, that growth has not been widely shared, as thousands of West Virginians continue to struggle to afford basic necessities like housing, nutritious food, and reliable child care and transportation. PDF of news release.

More than 332,000 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2013, including nearly 100,000 children, according to today's release of the 2013 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income in West Virginia did not rise between 2012 and 2013, even as other sources show that incomes at the top have grown and the gap between the top and bottom and top and middle have widened.

"Today's poverty figures highlight the need to make bolder investments in the people and communities of West Virginia," said Sean O'Leary, fiscal policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. "When we make it easier to move up the economic ladder, we not only help struggling families, we also make a stronger economy that works for us all."

West Virginia highlights from the 2013 American Community Survey include the following:

  • An estimated 332,347 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2013, for a total poverty rate of 18.5 percent. The state's poverty rate has not changed since the recession began. West Virginia has the 10th highest poverty rate among the 50 states.
  • The state's child poverty rate in 2013 was 26.6 percent, an increase from 2012. An estimated 97,818 West Virginian children lived in poverty in 2013, 8,000 more children than in 2012. West Virginia has the 7th highest child poverty rate among the 50 states.
  • 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 in West Virginia lived in poverty in 2013.
  • Poverty is much higher for African-Americans than the rest of the state in West Virginia. The state's poverty rate for African-Americans was 31.9 percent in 2013.
  • Seniors in West Virginia are less likely to be living in poverty than the rest of the state. The state's senior poverty rate in 2013 was 9.4 percent, with an estimated 29,347 West Virginians over the age of 65 living in poverty.
  • Poverty is substantially lower for West Virginians with higher levels of education. In 2013, the poverty rate for West Virginians with at least a bachelor's degree was 4.6 percent, while it was 14.3 percent for those with just a high school diploma. Poverty was highest among those who did not graduate from high school, at 28.6 percent.
  • Unemployed West Virginians are five times as likely to be living in poverty as employed West Virginians. In 2013 the poverty rate for employed West Virginians was 7.8 percent, while it was 37.2 percent for the unemployed.
  • West Virginia's median household income was an estimated $41,253 in 2013. Median household income measures the income of the typical household – or the household in the middle of the income distribution – and serves as a good indicator for how the middle class is faring. West Virginia's median household income is still below its pre-recession peak. West Virginia has the 3rd lowest median household income among the 50 states.

"We do not have to live in persistent poverty in West Virginia," said Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. "The state legislature can take action to help struggling families by investing in early intervention and childhood programs such as home visiting, enacting a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit, and by making college more affordable."

This past year saw the West Virginia Legislature take positive steps towards helping low-income families and reducing poverty, including restoring funding for children and family programs and raising the minimum wage starting in 2015. With poverty still at an elevated level, the state should continue to protect the programs that help children and families while looking for new ideas that reduce poverty, such as a creating a State Earned Income Tax Credit and reinvesting in higher education. 

West Virginia Local/Metropolitan Area

Poverty and Median Household Income, 2013

 

Poverty Rate

Median Household Income

Beckley, WV Micro Area

21.8%

$36,781

Bluefield, WV-VA Micro Area

24.3%

$36,047

Charleston, WV Metro Area

16.3%

$45,251

Clarksburg, WV Micro Area

15.5%

$41,153

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH Metro Area

20.2%

$43,453

Morgantown, WV Metro Area

19.2%

$47,051

Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna, WV-OH Metro Area

19.1%

$40,945

Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH Metro Area

16.2%

$39,277

Wheeling, WV-OH Metro Area

15.5%

$40,289

West Virginia - Statewide

18.5%

$41,253

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey


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