WV Center on Budget and Policy > Press > News Releases > Poverty Unchanged for Fifth Year, Middle-Class Income Stagnant

Poverty Unchanged for Fifth Year, Middle-Class Income Stagnant

September 19, 2013

Contact: Sean O’Leary, 304-720-8682, soleary@wvpolicy.org, Stephen Smith, 304-610-6512, ssmith@wvhealthykids.org

[Charleston, WV]— More than 320,000 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2012, including nearly 90,000 children, according to today’s release of the 2012 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. The income and poverty data released show the continued struggle for thousands of families in West Virginia. Read PDF of news release.

With West Virginia’s policymakers facing more challenges to balance the next year’s budget, challenges created by poverty should not be overlooked. “It’s been five years since the recession, and too many West Virginians remain living in poverty,” said Sean O’Leary, fiscal policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “State leaders need to think of these families and their children when setting the state’s priorities.”

West Virginia highlights from the 2012 American Community Survey include the following:

• An estimated total of 320,055 West Virginians were living in poverty in 2012, for a total poverty rate of 17.8 percent. The state’s poverty rate has been essentially unchanged since 2007 and the beginning of the recession. West Virginia ranks 13th highest among the 50 states in poverty.

• The state’s child poverty rate in 2012 was 24.2 percent, with approximately 89,809 children living in poverty. West Virginia’s child poverty rate has not significantly changed since 2007. West Virginia ranks 15th highest among the 50 states in child poverty.

• The state’s poverty rate for African Americans was 37.4 percent in 2012, nearly 20 points higher than the state average.

• An estimated 26,767 elderly West Virginians lived in poverty in 2012. The state’s poverty rate for individuals aged 65 years and older was 8.8 percent, 9 points lower than the state average.

• Lower rates of poverty can be found with higher levels of education. The poverty rate for West Virginians with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 4.3 percent in 2012, while the poverty rate for those with only a high school degree was 14.7 percent. The poverty rate for those without a high school diploma was 31.0 percent.

• West Virginians who were unemployed were much more likely to live in poverty in 2012. The poverty rate for employed West Virginians was 7.7 percent, while it was 36.2 percent for the unemployed.

• The state’s median household income was an estimated $40,196 in 2012. 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 ranked 48th out of the 50 states in median household income.

On September 24-25, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy will co-sponsor the “Our Children, Our Future: 2013 Policy Symposium” where policymakers, advocates, and working families will have the opportunity to discuss new and bold policy solutions to the crisis of child poverty.

Policy solutions scheduled to be discussed at the Symposium include developing the state’s workforce, increasing the minimum wage, creating a State Earned Income Tax Credit, and establishing the Future Fund, among others.

“You can’t have a civil rights movement led solely by white folks. And we can’t have a movement to end poverty in West Virginia without leadership by families,” said Stephen Smith, Executive Director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, and co-sponsor of the Policy Symposium. “That leadership will be on display – alongside lawmakers, businesses, unions, and faith leaders – next week at the Symposium.”

Poverty and Median Household Income, 2012

Poverty Rate Median Household Income

Beckley, WV Micro Area, 17.7%, $38,304
Bluefield, WV-VA Micro Area, 20.9%, $34,032
Charleston, WV Metro Area, 15.0%, $40,990
Clarksburg, WV Micro Area, 21.8%, $40,234
Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH Metro Area, 18.3%, $36,894
Morgantown, WV Metro Area, 21.6%, $43,722
Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna, WV-OH Metro Area, 17.0%, $39,314
Wheeling, WV-OH Metro Area, 15.8%, $40,081
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 American Community Survey

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The West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition is a nonprofit corporation bringing together individuals, private organizations, and state agencies to work to improve the health of children and families in West Virginia. The coalition provides a forum for diverse organizations to discuss, coordinate and collaborate on issues that improve the health and well-being of West Virginia children. After more than 13 years, the coalition continues to be a vital force in educating and advocating for child and family health.

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy (www.wvpolicy.org) is a public policy research organization that is nonpartisan, nonprofit, and statewide. The Center focuses on how policy decisions affect all West Virginians, especially low- and moderate-income families.