Income and Poverty in Appalachia

Prior to COVID-19, the Appalachian Region was seeing improvements in income and poverty. Median household income increased 9.6 percent between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020, with increases reaching at least 15 percent in 83 counties scattered throughout the Region. Despite these improvements, Appalachia’s figure is 82% of the national median household income.

The overall share of Appalachians in poverty declined 2.4 percentage points between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020. However, rates have stayed the same or increased in 85 counties. It remains to be seen whether these improvements helped buffer Appalachia from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Learn more about Appalachia’s income and poverty trends below.

Appalachia’s Median Household Income
U.S. Median Household Income
Poverty Rate in Appalachia

Median Income in Appalachia

Median Family Income Growth

During 2016-2020, the median family income in Appalachia was 85% of the U.S. median of $80,069. However, in 19 Appalachian counties – in metro areas – the median family income matched or exceeded the U.S. median. In another 66 counties, median income was at or above the median for families in the Appalachian Region. In contrast, median family income was less than $50,000 in 61 counties.

Poverty in Appalachia

Poverty Rate by Subregion

The share of Appalachian residents in poverty fell 2.4 percentage points in 2016-2020. Poverty decreased in all subregions, county types, and states. The decline was greatest in Appalachian Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where poverty fell by at least three percentage points.

Poverty Rate by Age Group

Poverty among both children and young adults (ages 18 to 24) fell noticeably since 2011- 2015. Child poverty dropped more than four percentage points, to 20.2 percent, in 2016-2020, while poverty among young adults fell four and a half points to 23.8 percent. Poverty also declined for older residents (ages 65 and over), though in some areas stayed the same or rose slightly.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation

Within the Region, 13.3% of households received payments from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, compared to 11.4% for the nation as a whole in 2016-2020.

SNAP for Households with Children

For households with children under the age of 18, Appalachia’s SNAP participation rate of 21.2% is higher than the national rate of 18.2%. Additionally, Appalachian households with income below the poverty level received SNAP benefits at a rate of 46.9% compared to 41.6% nationally.