New Statistics Show Hidden Poverty in Some of Virginia's Wealthiest Areas

Mar 29, 2017

Almost half of the children living in Petersburg, VA live in poverty according to new statistics from the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute.
Credit Doug Kerr / Flickr

New stats released this week give us a better picture of child poverty in Virginia, and they show a familiar divide. But as Michael Pope reports, the numbers also show widespread child poverty even within wealthy parts of the Commonwealth.

Almost half of children in Petersburg live in poverty. Other areas of the state that have high rates of childhood poverty are Danville and Emporia, places where a lack of opportunity leads to dead ends for struggling families. Kate Konkle is a researcher with the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, which compiled the new statistics.

"People living in poverty often lack access to other things that could make them healthy or not, including things like health care and access to healthy foods. Many neighborhoods aren’t maybe as safe, and so there might not be places for kids to go out and play.”

But this year, the numbers also show widespread disparities in some of the wealthiest parts of the state. In Williamsburg, for example, only three percent of white children live in poverty. But more than half of the black children do. Nearby James City County also has a very low percentage of white children who live in poverty. But almost half of the Hispanic children there do. Beth Nolan is director of KIDS COUNT at Voices for Virginia's Children.

“It’s really a perfect example of why we have to break down the data by race, ethnicity and geography because overall rates can actually mask inequities that exist within communities.”

One potential solution, researchers say, is education -- a way for parents to get higher paying jobs and make their way out of poverty.

You can find an interactive map of child poverty levels throughout the Commonwealth here.