Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Down & Out In The Mohawk Valley. Poverty In Northern Appalachia.

I didn’t realize until I did some more research that one of the eight counties in the Mohawk Valley, Schoharie County, is one of the counties that is part of Appalachia, according to the Appalachia Regional Commission. Schoharie County borders Montgomery County on the south.

If you look at U.S. Census Bureau poverty statistics, surprisingly Schoharie County is not the poorest county in the Mohawk Valley. Below in order from wealthiest to poorest, I have listed the eight counties of the Mohawk Valley based on median household income and percentage of people living below the poverty level. (I’ve thrown in Rensselaer County as well). The number at the end of each row is the county’s ranking out of New York State’s 62 counties. These statistics are from 2003, the latest statistics that the Census Bureau has. Notice the gap between the eastern and western halves of the Mohawk Valley, which I have emphasized by leaving white space between them.

Sorry but blogger compressed all of my nice neat columns, and I don't know enough about html to fix them. Hopefully, you can read these statistics anyway.

County. Median Income. State Ranking.
Saratoga $53,653 8
Albany $44,245 12
Rensselaer $44,245 13
Schenectady $43,321 17

Oneida $36,165 41
Schoharie $35,759 44
Fulton $34,851 51
Montgomery $34,641 52
Herkimer $33,967 56

County. Percent Below Poverty. State Ranking (Least % of poverty)
Saratoga 6.3% 3
Rensselaer 9.8% 12
Albany 10.8% 22
Schenectady 11.6 29 (Tied with Schoharie)

Schoharie 11.6 29
Herkimer 12.4 32
Fulton 12.7 38
Oneida 12.8 40
Montgomery 13.0 46

While the data about Oneida and Herkimer Counties are a little confusing, Fulton and Montgomery Counties are consistently at the bottom. Even though Saratoga County, one of the wealthiest counties in the state, borders both Fulton and Montgomery Counties, there is no trickle down effect.

It’s interesting to compare some of these statistics with Kentucky and West Virginia, which usually come to mind when people think of Appalachia. In percentage below the poverty level, there are 31 out of Kentucky’s 120 counties and 9 out of West Virginia’s 55 counties that are equal to or fare better than Montgomery County, New York. There are 48 out of Kentucky’s 120 counties and 11 out of West Virginia’s 55 counties that are equal to or fare better than Herkimer County, New York when it comes to median family income.

While not all of Kentucky’s counties are designated as part of Appalachia, all of West Virginia’s counties are. That makes the comparison between New York and West Virginia more significant. 20% of West Virginia’s counties have a higher median family income than Herkimer County, New York and 16% of West Virginia’s counties have less people under the poverty level than Montgomery County, New York.

So the question still remains, if several of the counties in the Mohawk Valley, particularly the western part of the valley, meet both the geographical and economic standards for being part of Appalachia, why are they not designated such by the Appalachian Regional Commission?

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