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Poverty in West North Carolina

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Poverty in West North Carolina and Education

The 2008-9 recession has undoubtedly left its marks on the counties of west North Carolina which have not been able to fully recover from it even 7 years later as the economy of the United States was slowly showing encouraging signs of recovery and strength.

In 13 counties in the west of the state, close to 15.5% of the population are below poverty line. Buncombe County, the largest in the region, is relatively better with a little less than 15% below the poverty line.

15% is only an average score. There are counties in which the situation is much worse. For example, in Watauga and Madison, 28% and 23.7% of the people respectively live below the poverty rate. In Jackson and McDowell Counties, the figure is also above 20%.

There is a bright side, however. In Henderson County, less than 4% are considered poor. In Polk County, the number is 9%.

Can education explain poverty?

Surprisingly, the usually existing correlation between the level of education and poverty cannot be found in the western counties of North Carolina.

Statistical data show that almost one-third of the adult population in the 13 counties in west North Carolina have a college or a professional degree. Only 13.2% do not have a high school diploma.

Watauga County is a home to a large number of college graduates (close to 40% of the total residents) and it is still one of the poorest counties in the region.

It seems that education is no longer a guarantee for wealth. One of the reasons for that is that the 2008-9 recession hit white-collar workers as hard as it hit blue-collar ones. In addition, the improvement seen in the American economy has still not reached inland and is currently mainly affecting the regions in the East and West Coasts. Once it fully reaches more remote places inland, education will resume its traditional role in determining a person’s standard of living.

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