Shuttered storefronts in downtown Logan, W.Va. (AP) Shuttered storefronts in downtown Logan, W.Va. (AP)

Shuttered storefronts in downtown Logan, W.Va. (AP)

Liz Newton
By Liz Newton December 10, 2018
By Zack Schwehm December 10, 2018

Does West Virginia have the nation's fourth-worst poverty rate?

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic state Sen. Mike Romano expressed concern about the state of the West Virginia economy.

"Our poverty rate, which has not declined since the Great Recession, was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau," Romano wrote.

Are Romano’s statistics about West Virginia poverty accurate? We took a closer look.

We turned to official U.S. Census Bureau data for poverty by state and looked at 2017, the most recent year for which data was available. While there are two main Census Bureau sources for poverty statistics -- the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey -- experts we consulted with agreed that the American Community Survey data was better for a statewide statistic because it has a much larger sample size.

Romano was correct that West Virginia had the fourth-highest poverty rate of any state in 2017, at 19.1 percent.

Here are the five states with the highest poverty rates that year:

1. Mississippi: 19.8 percent

2. Louisiana: 19.7 percent

3. New Mexico: 19.7 percent

4. West Virginia: 19.1 percent

5. Kentucky: 17.2 percent

Our ruling

Romano said the poverty rate in West Virginia "was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country." He’s right on both counts, so we rate his statement True.

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The poverty rate in West Virginia "was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country."
an op-ed
Thursday, November 8, 2018

Our Sources

West Virginia Gazette-Mail, "Mike Romano: Creating a real economic comeback (Gazette Opinion)," Nov. 8, 2018.

U.S. Census Bureau, American Fact Finder, accessed Dec. 7, 2018

Email interview with Michael Wiseman, research professor of public policy, public administration, and economics at George Washington University, Dec. 7, 2019

Email interview with Arloc Sherman, senior director and senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Dec. 7, 2018

Does West Virginia have the nation's fourth-worst poverty rate?

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