ram wise countyBy Peter Galuszka

With expanding Medicaid about to become a major issue with the incoming Terry McAuliffe administration, it is curious to see exactly where the poor people in Virginia live. An intriguing New York Times interactive graph provides clues and allows one to draw some rather disturbing conclusions.

The single worst pocket of poverty of 76.7% appears to be in an inner city part of Hampton. Trailing not far behind are inner city parts of Norfolk (67.8%) and Portsmouth (64.9%).

Much-touted RVA is a hotbed for low-income people as defined by individuals making less than $11,945 a year or a family of four making $23,283 a year. Despite all the hoopla you read about Richmond becoming an artsy draw for white, educated millennials, the capital, at least its downtown and east end, is as poor as church mice.

An east end section near Fairfield Avenue is 67.% poor. Manchester south of downtown has rates of 35% and farther south it is 50.7%.

Zip over the mostly white Short Pump area where the fancy stores are in Henrico and poverty is about 2 percent. I tried to look up where Jim Bacon lives but the chart said it was a “low population area” and rates weren’t available. My area in southwestern Chesterfield is about 3 percent.

A cursory scan around the state did not show any poverty rates anywhere close to those of the inner cities of Tidewater or Richmond –certainly not in Northern Virginia although Winchester seemed a little sketchy.

In more rural areas, Halifax County in the dying tobacco and textile belt was high but the surrounding area was low. An area near Lynchburg showed 50 percent levels.

Another curiosity was that once you get to the Southwest, you can see the black hand of coal. The Virginia coalfields are generally just west of U.S. 19. Giles County to the east of it has poverty rates of about 13 %. But cross to the western counties and watch it double (Buchanan 23%; Dickenson, 21.3% and Wise, 25.6%).

What do these counties have in common? A dying coal industry and even dying is a misnomer. One would think that these areas would be swimming in money thanks to black diamonds. Anything but. They’ve been stripped and raped with the wealth flowing elsewhere. This is something to keep in mind when you hear about “The War on Coal.” Turns out the “War on People Living Near Coal Mines” has been going on since the late 19th century.

The Times chart is a wonderful reality check. It should have huge applications as expanding Medicaid is considered. The lesson seems to be that extreme poverty is concentrated in neglected inner city neighborhoods and abused rural areas.

If (God forbid!) poor people start flocking to emergency rooms once they get Medicaid, those emergency rooms are likely to be in large, downtown teaching hospitals like the Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. They won’t be in rich, white suburban areas for the simple reason that public transit is lacking. In rural areas, the poor may well have to find rides to take them dozens of miles to find care.

(Hat tip to Scott Elmquist) 

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8 responses to “Where the Poor Are”

  1. A map would be great. Can you do a screen capture of the NYTimes interactive map?

  2. aatkeson Avatar

    Thanks for continuing to cover Medicaid Expansion! Here is a great map of those who will benefit from Medicaid Expansion in Virginia http://www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org/2013/04/16/interactive-map-virginians-eligible-for-medicaid-expansion-in-every-locality/

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    The only accurate way to view poverty in Virginia is through the lens of cost of living.

    The Weldon Cooper Institute understands this and has created the Virginia Poverty Measure (VPM). The VPM adjusts the incompetent federal poverty measure for a competent measure that includes cost of living.

    By the VPM the Beltway area in Virginia has a higher poverty rate than the Richmond area.

    So, how does the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond justify the theft of billions of dollars a year from “rich” NoVa to subsidize “poor” RoVa? Sounds like its time to soak the Richmond area for a while.

    See pg 19 …


    1. FreeDem Avatar

      I was just about to post about this as well.

      It’s nice to have a big picture analysis on poverty, but cost of living has to be looked at, and other aspects ignored by the federal statistics including some social welfare programs.

      Population size also matters. Fairfax ends up with the same poverty rate as the Northern Neck and Eastern Shore, but there are far more people in Fairfax than rural Tidewater.

      Work-related expenses, including child care and transportation, increase VPM the most according to the page 21.

      Watch for more demands for child care, pre-K, and other support for mothers in the coming years. Early education is held ups as one solution to rising inequality by ensuring that kids get on the right track early. Public provisions for these services are also supported by feminists who want to make it easier for women to enter into the workforce.

      1. I don’t have a problem with factoring in the cost of living but for the counties that are receiving substantial aid – I suspect cost of living is low so what is the benchmark?

        the local taxation is what pays for things like Teachers and if you take a look it’s the local govt that sets teachers salaries and if you look further, you’ll see that the salaries in the rural areas are much, much lower than in th urban areas.

        so I’m not sure exactly what the point of that complaint really is because I’m not convinced the complainers are working off of any real data that would clearly demonstrate what their complaint is implying.

        Remember – the money that is used for the LCI comes form 1% sales tax – taxed LOCALLY that reflects local goods and services valuations.

        Sometimes I think the complaint is more based on the resentment factor of how (all) of the states do fund education – by benefiting from the rich areas to smooth out funding to the poor areas.

        how much sense does it make to be resentful of trying to equip kids in poor areas with a 21 century education that allows them to move, earn a living and pay taxes – instead of staying there, ignorant and poor and continuing to receive taxpayer-funded entitlements from the richer areas?

        It’s not like places like NoVa are libertarian entrepreneurial meccas to start with. They are the biggest teat-sucking slurpers of the Federal budget in the entire country.

        but again, how much sense does it make to have a policy that insures that those born in poor areas will remain destitute ????

        education and commerce infrastructure is what made this country an economic powerhouse.. but of late – we seem bound and determined to divide the country into those who are “takers” and those who are “donors”.

        it makes no sense.. it’s institutional cutting off your nose type politics.

        People who are educated and healthy become productive… and add to the productivity of the country … instead we’re becoming a country of “I’ve got mine, screw you”.

  4. re: the poor..

    the game is “pay me now or pay me later”.

    as opposed to

    “hell no we won’t pay, go rot in hell”.

    well.. at least until the right wing gets elected…

  5. Jim- I checked out the map, and noticed the area around Lynchburg that you mentioned, with greater than a 50% poverty rate. There are some pockets around Charlottesville that are even worse, exceeding 60%. Since I am very familiar with both towns, it was very clear that both areas were census tracts that encompassed census districts composed primarily of college students. Without the proper input variables, one might assume that each city has pockets of extreme poverty, which is surely not the case.

    1. College students are a pain in the butt — they screw up a lot of stuff!!

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