An estimated 336,301 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2017, for a total poverty rate of 19.1 percent, a 1.2 percentage point increase from 2016. West Virginia’s poverty rate in 2017 was 5.7 percentage points higher than the national average. West Virginia’s poverty rate has not declined since the end of the Great Recession. West Virginia had the 4th highest poverty rate among the 50 states in 2017.
“The Census data shows the reality and economic hardships of everyday West Virginians are being ignored as state policymakers claim a West Virginia economic turnaround,” Sean O’Leary, WVCBP Senior Policy Analyst said. “West Virginia’s economic growth since the Great Recession has not been balanced, and the average West Virginian family is not better off.”
West Virginia’s child poverty rate in 2017 was 25.5 percent, a 1.9 percentage point increase from 2016. An estimated 91,734 children lived in poverty in 2017. West Virginia had the 4th highest child poverty rate among the 50 states in 2017.
Poverty remains a more serious problem for African Americans in West Virginia. The state’s poverty rate for African Americans was 31.7 percent in 2017.
Seniors in West Virginia are less likely to be in poverty than the rest of the state. The state’s senior poverty rate in 2017 was 10.2 percent. An estimated 34,792 West Virginians over the age of 65 lived in poverty in 2017.
Poverty rates decrease for adults with higher levels of education. In 2017, the poverty rate for West Virginians with at least a bachelor’s degree was 5.2 percent, while it was 17.6 percent for those with just a high school diploma. Poverty was highest among those who did not graduate from high school, at 32.9 percent.
Women in West Virginia face higher poverty rates than men. In 2017, West Virginia’s poverty rate for women was 20.9 percent, compared to 17.2 percent for men.
Unemployed West Virginians are five times more likely to be living in poverty as employed West Virginians. In 2017 the poverty rate for employed West Virginians was 8.0 percent, while it was 42.6 percent for the unemployed.
West Virginia’s median household income was an estimated $43,469 in 2017, $16,867 below the national average. 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 did not increase in the past year, and, adjusting for inflation, has not increased at all since 2007. In 2017, West Virginia had the lowest median household income among the 50 states, down from 49th in 2016.
“Too many West Virginians struggled to make ends meet in 2017, so West Virginia needs to take action to pass a state Earned Income Tax Credit which would make it easier for people to build a secure future,” O’Leary said. “Our state will be a better place when all West Virginians have the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their kids. A state EITC is a big part of making this a reality.”