A recent study by United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg gave insight on the Richmond region’s rapidly rising poverty rates.
According to the study, poverty is on the rise at a more rapid pace in Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield than the City of Richmond itself.
The report found the poverty rate in Richmond’s suburbs increased 110 percent in Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico combined between 2000 and 2014.
“There are more people in poverty in the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico than there are in the cities of Colonial Heights, Petersburg and Richmond.” said James Taylor, President and CEO of United Way.
Richmond, which has a higher poverty rate than its suburbs, also experienced a spike in poverty, although to a lesser degree. The city’s poverty rate increased from about 20 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2014.
The study, called “Indicators of Community Strength,” collected data from the 11 jurisdictions and analyzed it in order to better understand the community. It focused on areas of education, health and economics.
A household income of a family of three has to be below $18,872 to be considered under the poverty threshold. This formula comes from President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960’s, a time where the average family spent an estimate of one third of its budget on food.
Taylor said this formula is outdated and needs to be changed, for even families well above the poverty line are still trying to find ways to make ends meet. In order to give an accurate representation, in the study United Way also calculated “Total Population Living Below 200% of Poverty Thresholds.” The numbers in this study are rising rapidly as well.
Although the poverty rate is up, factors that usually contribute heavily to the poverty rate are doing well. Unemployment rate is down and high school graduation is up in almost all areas.
Taylor said that a major factor in causing the poverty rate to be so high is that many people are under qualified for the higher paying jobs, which may require technical training or a college degree.
Each county and the city each have their own approach to combating poverty. Officials in the counties of Henrico and Hanover were unavailable for comment but the city of Chesterfield hopes to use United Way’s study to help them.
“Their study was just released, and we need to take the proper time to thoroughly review the results,” stated Teresa Bonifas, Public Information Officer for Chesterfield County, in an email. “Once we have completed our evaluation, we look forward to working with our partners and neighboring localities.”
Taylor suggests the region needs to find a way to bridge their poverty efforts and work together otherwise the region run the risks of running different policies and incentives that will be confusing and will counteract each other.
“A regional effort around this is not going to be easy, and I don’t want to suggest that it will be,” Taylor said.
Mary Lee Clark
Mary Lee is a senior studying journalism. She currently interns for RVAmag and GayRVA.com, in addition to writing for the CT. She previously worked as a makeup artist at Darkwood Manor, did lighting design at Trackside Theater (where she is now on the Board of Directors) and photographed for the Page News and Courier.
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