US Census data shows poverty rate on the rise in WV

More West Virginians — especially children — continue to live in poverty, according to new U.S. Census data released this morning.

About 18.5 percent of West Virginians lived below the poverty line in 2013, according to the American Community Survey created by the U.S. Census. That’s an increase from the 17.8 percent figure recorded in 2012 and nearly as high as the highest rate recorded in recent years, 18.6 percent in 2011.

More than a quarter of all West Virginia children lived in poverty in 2013, with nearly a third of children 5 years old or younger living below the poverty line. That means nearly 98,000 children in the state are living in poverty — one of the highest rates in the country, according to the left-leaning think tank West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

“We do not have to live in persistent poverty in West Virginia,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the center, in the news release.

“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.”

The poverty line for a family of four in 2013 was $23,550, according to the federal health department.

Boettner and Sean O’Leary, an analyst for the policy center, noted the relatively small overall increase in the poverty rate means the rate has been stagnant since the recession in the late 2000s. They said more information is needed to truly understand the cause of the significant rise in poverty among children.

While the poverty rate in the state is up, so too are the percentage of households earning more than $100,000. The percent of households earning the most money rose by 1.5 percentage points from 2012 to 2013, with 13.6 percent of West Virginia households earning $100,000 or more.

Median household income has also risen significantly since 2011. In 2013 median income rose to $41,250, compared to $39,800 in 2011.

The center also notes black West Virginians suffer from poverty at a higher rate than others in the state, with nearly 32 percent living under the poverty line in 2013.

The state’s labor force increased from 818,000 people in 2012 to about 822,000 people in 2013. However, a little less than half of the roughly 1.5 million West Virginia who are 16 or older remain out of the work force, according to the data.

More information from the new data about West Virginia is available at the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or Follow him at

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