A stagnant economy hasn’t had much of an effect on West Virginia’s poverty rate, but that’s not necessarily good news.
According to American Community Survey data, West Virginia’s poverty rate increased slightly from 17.1 percent to 17.7 percent between 2008 and 2009, an increase that is not considered statistically significant. The national poverty rate rose from 13.3 percent to 14.3 percent.
“Let’s not forget,” said Dr. Christiadi, a demographer in West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics in the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, “that while West Virginia fares slightly better than the nation in 2009, our poverty rate remains among the highest in the nation.”
The recession has hurt West Virginia’s disadvantaged families the most. Between 2008 and 2009, the poverty rate for households with no husband rose from 34.6 percent to 38.7 percent. Nationally, the poverty rate in that category increased by only a little more than one percent, from 28.1 percent to 29.4 percent.
“The data suggests that while almost everyone is affected by the recession, more help may be needed for these disadvantaged families,” Christiadi said.
Although its overall poverty rate didn’t sink lower, West Virginia’s unemployment rate increased from 5.7 percent to 7.7 percent between 2008 and 2009 and the share of employed workforce dropped by 1.5 percent from 48.4 percent to 46.9 percent.
The same trends occurred nationally but are larger in magnitude. The U.S. unemployment rate rose by 3.5 percentage points from 6.4 percent to 9.9 percent, and the share of employed workforce dropped by nearly two percentage points from 56.2 percent to 54.3 percent. During the same period, the state did not see a significant decline in its median household income, while the nation saw it drop about $2,000 from $71,000 to $69,000.
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