Income and Poverty in Appalachia

Prior to COVID-19, the Appalachian Region was seeing improvements in income and poverty. Median household income increased 8 percent between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019, with increases reaching at least 15 percent in 59 counties scattered throughout the Region. Despite these improvements, Appalachia’s figure is 82.6% of the nation’s average median household income.

The overall share of Appalachians in poverty declined two percentage points between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019. However, rates have stayed the same or increased in 95 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 2015-2019, the median family income in Appalachia was 85% of the U.S. median of $77,263. However, in 21 Appalachian counties – in metro areas – the median family income matched or exceeded the U.S. median. In another 63 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 92 counties.

Poverty in Appalachia

Poverty Rate by Subregion

Since 2010-2014, the share of Appalachian residents in poverty has fallen two percentage points to 15.2 percent in 2015-2019. Poverty decreased in all subregions, county types, and states. The decline in poverty was greatest in the Appalachian portions of Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina: Poverty fell by more than three percentage points in each state. In contrast, poverty rates decreased by just 0.5 points in West Virginia and 0.2 points in Virginia.

Poverty Rate by Age Group

Both child poverty and poverty among young adults (ages 18 to 24) fell noticeably since 2010- 2014. Child poverty dropped more than three percentage points to 21.2% in 2015-2019, while poverty among 18-to-24-year-olds fell four points to 24.8%. Poverty also declined 0.3% points for older residents (ages 65 and over) between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019 in Appalachia, although some parts of the Region either stayed the same or rose slightly. Meanwhile, South Central Appalachia, the Region’s nonmetro counties, and the Appalachian portions of North and South Carolina had the biggest drops in the poverty rate for persons ages 65 and over.