West Virginia is a landlocked eastern U.S. state. It is a state with the Appalachian Mountains, which are covered with trees and greenery all over. The West Virginians speak English like everyone else. It is also known as the Mountain State, and it is well-known for its wide range of hiking activities. The capital of West Virginia is Charleston, which is also the biggest city in West Virginia.
West Virginia is abbreviated as WV, and it is one of the poorest states in the US. Why is West Virginia so poor? Let’s find out.
The neighbouring states of West Virginia are Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland in the north; Maryland and Virginia on the east coast; Virginia and Kentucky in the south; and Kentucky and Ohio in the west. West Virginia’s economy is unstable, and with the decrease in the economy, there is a similar decrease in the poverty rate.
History of West Virginia
When the state of Virginia decided to withdraw from the United States during the Civil War (1861–65), the people of the western region of the state decided to form their own state to support the Union. West Virginia’s slave population peaked at 7% of the total population in 1850. The number of slaves decreased as the demand increased in the lower South.
After World War II, West Virginia remained in a poor economic situation, and Appalachia was known to be lagging behind every other region. The 1970s welcomed the possibility of chemical, steel, and glass industries in the Ohio and Kanawha valleys. This led to migration in these urban areas in southern West Virginia for a better job and education opportunities, which declined the population level in West Virginia.
Though West Virginia is known for high-quality hardwood forests, Monongahela National Forest, one of the largest in the US, is used for coal mining jobs.
When is a State Considered Poor?
Poverty is measured in the United States by comparing a person’s or family’s income to a set minimum amount of income needed for day-to-day life. People whose average income falls below that line are considered poor. The poorest states are those with the largest number of poor people.
Poverty is a serious issue worldwide that not only shows a lack of jobs but also hints towards malnutrition, hunger, crime, and an increase in death rates. Poverty has been a common issue for many countries and states, and many policies are being introduced by different governments to make sure they do what is best for their state or country. The higher the poverty rate, the higher the crime and death rate of the country or state.
Why is West Virginia so Poor:
The main reasons for the poverty in West Virginia are its geography and the lack of a good democratic government. West Virginia is a landlocked state, which means that it doesn’t have access to any ports or oceans, and the mountains there are of no significant use for agriculture or housing. The main source of income is coal and good wood stock, but there is a lack of resources for both. Another reason for the state’s poor economy is the decline in population, which leads to fewer opportunities for the citizens.
All major states start by trading through a port, for example, New York or San Francisco. If not trade through the waters, then they had good agricultural land that allowed them to provide other states with different types of crops. So, the major towns and cities that are geographically blessed can increase their income with much ease as compared to West Virginia. Just like West Virginia, you can see other examples such as Alabama and Wyoming that weren’t able to develop due to a lack of geographical head start.
One might even argue that the Union helped and destroyed the state at the same time. Though it tried to support as many people as it could, it still led to the partition of Virginia and the economic depletion of West Virginia.
Let’s talk about the causes of the lack of economic growth one by one in detail and find an answer to why West Virginia is so poor:
The geography of West Virginia plays a very important role in its lack of economic development. As we have discussed above, West Virginia is a landlocked state with no port or river to sustain it. Its landscape is divided into three major sections: the Allegheny Plateau, the Allegheny Mountains, and the Ridge and Valley Province.
In geographical features, it contains the Allegheny Mountains, hills that are a part of the famous Appalachian Mountains, which are a range of mountains running along the eastern coast of North America from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, in the north to Alabama, USA, in the south.
West Virginia is the only state lying completely in the Appalachian region. It is known that 78% of West Virginia’s area is covered with forests and mountains. The sound of being covered with mountains might sound appealing, seeing how many states and countries use the mountains for agriculture, but unfortunately, the land of the Appalachian Mountains cannot be used for agriculture and only for housing. One must know that construction in the mountains also has high costs and is a little costly for the poorest state in the US.
The only way that the Mountains can be easily put to use is by increasing tourism in the Mountain State, which of course is why the mountain range in West Virginia is used for outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, biking, and more.
2. Politics and government
The government of West Virginia is the same as that of the US, with three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, which means it has a governor, legislation, electives, and the judiciary.
It is believed that the federal government is taking almost no action to increase tourism in the state. There is no reason for outside states or countries to believe in West Virginia when it doesn’t even believe in itself. The poor decisions and choices made by legislators and the wrong people being elected led to bad planning and execution in the state.
After the partition, the state tried to build itself up in terms of laws and development, but the main factor they forgot about was the need for population and growth from outside. There are no food immigration policies or job opportunities that could encourage youth to live in West Virginia.
Even the first half of the people already living here have been migrating to other countries or states in order to live a good lifestyle. The regulation of money is needed as there are counties like the richest, Monongalia County, where the average house price is 200,000 dollars, and McDowell County, with an average house price of 30,000 dollars. There is, sadly, an undeniable difference between the two.
3. Coal Mining
West Virginia has been blessed with good mines for coal. It is the US’s second coal mining state. It has coal mines and also has coal-fired power plants that are responsible for all of West Virginia’s electricity generation. These coal deposits occur in all but two of the countries.
History says that early citizens of West Virginia knew about the rich black resource of coal. In 1810, coal was mined near Wheeling, in the northern Panhandle. The need for coal increased with the growth of the salt industry. The other fields began to develop in the next two decades.
The department of mines existed until 1985, after which it became a part of the West Virginia Department of Energy, now called the West Virginia Division of Energy. In 1991, another agency was formed, the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety, and Training, to ensure mining safety for the workers.
The production of cement, oil, construction and industrial sand and gravel, and other mineral resources was started step by step, but metals were never considered in the state, although they were processed there. Though transporting these resources was difficult for a city with no port, it was done regardless, and hence, the coal industry and natural resources became a big part of West Virginia’s economy. Hence, the government should focus on coal production and invest in miners.
Mining now employs fewer and fewer people due to depleted coal production as the need for coal is now reduced, yet the coal miners don’t realize what is best for them and still invest their time and energy in the same.
4. Population Growth
The US has the 8th greatest GDP per capita, but that capital is not evenly divided among the states, and West Virginia comes last with respect to the economy. 19% of the residents of West Virginia are living in poverty. One in every five children there struggles to access food.
The biggest city in West Virginia is the capital, Charleston, which is known to have about 50,000 residents, and there are only about 10 cities or so that have more than 10,000 residents. The family living in poverty is doing its best to survive, but a smaller population also reduces the number of opportunities and workers.
The few urban areas that exist are small because there was no particular reason for them to grow because the industries in those cities never worked. There are communities to help the underprivileged, but the lack of employment doesn’t allow the problem to rest. Without any increase in population, the state can survive, but the state is losing citizens every day, and the population is declining more than ever.
There are a few reasons why people migrate to West Virginia: the low cost of living, historical coal mining, and natural beauty.
There is employment in the sectors of hospitality, medical fields, surgical hospitals, specialty hospitals, elementary and secondary schools, restaurants and food security. Employment in these sectors not only helps the state with education and health care but also promises a wage to the workers and more money for the state.
The Unemployment Compensation (UC) programme provides temporary income support to individuals who become unemployed through no fault of their full-time hours. The money for the unemployed is between 24 and 630 dollars. You will be disqualified from this if you quote your jobs instead of being fired. You are considered to be suffering from poverty if you have been unemployed without fault.
Currently, the unemployment rate of the state is 4.10%, which is much lower than the usual average of 7.83%. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the United States. In recent years, West Virginia has been working on increasing its employment level and jobs. The majority of jobs that are in the state are also in the lower-paying sector, such as those of waiters, cleaners, and more. The key to every improved economy is more jobs and opportunities.
Why Live in West Virginia?
For starters, four of the first five US presidents were West Virginians. Some of the best things about Virginia are its low cost of living, its low crime rate, its outdoor job opportunities, its kind people, its natural beauty, its quality jobs, and its higher education facilities that allow people to lead a peaceful and calming life among the greenery. It is, overall, a very beautiful state to live in and a pretty place to visit on holidays.
In the winter, the mountains of West Virginia are covered in snow, which always encourages people to ski, sled, and more. This place makes a great tourist spot and can be called the unknown beauty is hidden behind the mountains. It is a mystery to be solved by travellers, vloggers, and influencers.
Help the place grow by visiting and investing in this beautiful state. If you are planning to save money for your future, then it is the best place for your relocation.
Cons of Living in West Virginia
Crime and violent threats have been increasing in the state for some time. The main problems that arise in states with poverty are drug addiction and the wrong food being circulated. The districts with good schools and education are much more expensive for the people who also want their children to receive the best education.
Due to the reduction in the morning process, job employment is low, and the jobs only pay a minimum amount that doesn’t allow individuals to earn well for themselves.
The streets of the state aren’t safe, and you might encounter some unfriendly neighbourhoods that are much more prone to crime.
With this, the lack of quality of life in WV is making the residents suffer and reducing development in the state, which has so much more potential.
To know more about West Virginia and to know more about why West Virginia is so poor, read the following articles by us: