Sorry, College Kids, Living off Beer and Pizza Does Not Make You Poor

Source: Demographics Work Group, UVa
Source: Demographics Work Group, UVa

As readers know, I am a data junkie, and I post a lot of maps and charts highlighting, among other things, the variations of wealth and poverty in Virginia. The data is useful in helping us understand social, economic and political dynamics of the state, but they usually come with an asterisk. Poverty rates tend to be abnormally high in college towns. Judging by the statistics, one would expect places like Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Radford and Lexington to be havens for housing projects and trailer parks. Yet to all outward appearances, they seem to be fairly prosperous places.

Clearly, the presence of large numbers of college students who are studying (and partying)  rather than working full-time to earn a living are skewing the figures. As a new census brief from the Demographics Working Group at the University of Virginia observes:

Most college students report very low incomes, putting them below their respective poverty thresholds and—especially in cases of large off-campus student populations—raising the rate of poverty in the towns where they live. Yet, intuitively, we recognize that college or graduate student “poverty” means something different than poverty among the unemployed, families with children, or the persistently needy.

In calculating the official poverty rate, number crunchers make some adjustments to minimize the student amplification of poverty by excluding people living in group quarters such as college students in dormitories, older adults in nursing homes, prisoners and inmates, and military personnel in barracks. Even so college students living off-campus inflate the poverty numbers.

By removing all students involved in undergraduate or graduate education, the Demographics Work Group provides a clearer picture of what most of us would think of as “real” poverty. In the aforementioned college towns, making this adjustment cuts poverty rates in half. Even in most populous jurisdictions, such as Richmond, the adjustment creates a noticeable drop.


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One response to “Sorry, College Kids, Living off Beer and Pizza Does Not Make You Poor”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Here is a hint as to what is going on here. It is the Silly Season. The 2116 presidential elections are coming up. Both parties are rallying their base.

    The Democrats think their base includes College Students, most especially young women. Since the Democrats in the White House think they control how this constituency thinks and acts by reason of Obama’s and Uncle Joe’s promise that “I Got Your Back Campaign” against all the college boy rapists who are running wild on campus, the White house is now launching its all college kids in Virginia are poor as church mice campaign. This work in tandem with everybody is getting raped on campus too.

    And of course Demographics Work Group at UVa has joined in, giving the spare time on their hands after the Rolling Stones vicious gang rape story has at least for the moment stalled.

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