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West Virginia brings to mind images of Charleston, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you'll find in the good ole US of A.
However, like all states, West Virginia has certain places that are going on hard times. These places have an above average percent of people that are living in poverty, out of work, or not making as much as they should be.
With all the talk about income inequality going on around the country, we thought it prudent to take a look at the places in each state that are struggling to make it even as the economy continues to improve. So we set our sites on bringing attention to the places in West Virginia that could use a helping hand.
To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 27 places in West Virginia with more than 5,000 people.
Again, this isn't a commentary on the people that live there or the vibrant culture and traditions of these places. Instead, it's just a look at the facts.
What's the poorst city in West Virginia? According to the facts, Grafton is the poorest place in West Virginia for 2021.
For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.
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The 10 Poorest Cities In West Virginia For 2021
Grafton, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in West Virginia thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.
The city of 5,061 people averages the 6th lowest median household income in West Virginia and the 8th highest poverty rate. At the very least, the cost of living ranks in the bottom 15% of place in the state, so things like housing are relatively affordable.
The second poorest city in West Virginia is Keyser.
The city ranks as having the 7th highest incidence of poverty and 4th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 5th highest in the Mountain State.
Placing as the third poorest city, Huntington's median income ranks as the lowest.
And that's a sign that there's a relatively substantial jump in the quality of the economy from second to third place on our list. The poverty rate is 32.34332487367675% and ranks near the bottom of places in the state.
But what makes up for the relatively low incomes of the city is its low cost of living. The income you do make here goes further than in most parts of the Mountain State.
Parkersburg ranks as the fourth poorest place in West Virginia.
The town ranks as having the 3rd lowest median household income and the 4th highest incidence of poverty in the state.
That being said, there's still a ton of cultural diversity in the city as it hosts many events throughout the year.
The fifth poorest city in West Virginia is Martinsburg.
The city ranks as having the 13th lowest median income in the state. However, an extremely low cost of living prevents a good number of folks from living in poverty as the poverty rate only ranks as the 3rd highest in West Virginia.
Still not the best news for Martinsburg.
Morgantown ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Mountain State.
It ranks as having the highest incidence of poverty and the 7th highest unemployment rate.
Oak Hill places as the seventh poorest city in West Virginia.
The city of over 8,336 ranks as having the 13th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.
Bluefield ranks as the eighth poorest city in West Virginia.
The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 4th highest in the state.
Princeton couldn't stay out of the top ten poorest places in West Virginia; it ranks number 9.
While the median income is the 12th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Princeton ranks as having the 6th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in West Virginia.
And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in West Virginia is Buckhannon.
The city of 5,486 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Mountain State.
How We Determined The Poorest Places In West Virginia for 2021
The first thing that comes to most people's minds when they think about determining the poorest places is to simply the poverty rate. That is, the number of people living below a federally established level of income for a household of a certain size.
However, we don't think that one statistic wholly encompasses what it means to be one of the "poorest places". So we looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2015-2019 American Community Survey:
- Poverty Level
- Median Household Income adjusted for the cost of living
- Unemployment Rate
The "median household income adjusted for the cost of living" attempts to gauge how expensive it is to live in a place and how that impacts the quality of life. For example, a town might have fewer people living below the official poverty line, but the cost of living is so high they'd still feel poor.
The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.
After we collected the data for all 27 places with more than 5,000 people in West Virginia, we ranked each place from 1 to 27 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.
We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a "Poor Score" with the place having the lowest overall Poor Score, Grafton, crowned the "Poorest Place In West Virginia For 2021". You can download the data here.
There You Have It - The Poorest Places In West Virginia For 2021
Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in West Virginia, we weren't sure what we'd encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in West Virginia.
When you look at the data, the cities and places mentioned above meet the criteria for being at the very bottom of the income ladder for everyone that lives there.
If you're curious enough, here are the richest cities in West Virginia, according to data:
2nd Richest: Vienna
3rd Richest: Hurricane
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Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In West Virginia