Community Development



October 24, 2008

Fed's Concentrated Poverty Report Includes Fifth District Communities


Two communities, one in North Carolina and one in West Virginia, were among those studied for the Federal Reserve's report on concentrated poverty. Recently released, The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty: Case Studies from Communities Across the U.S., looks at the factors that give rise to high-poverty neighborhoods and the challenges they face. The report was the result of a joint project between the Community Affairs functions of the Federal Reserve System and the Brookings Metropolitan Policy program.

In the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's Fifth District, West Greenville, N.C. and McDowell County, W.Va. were among those studied due to extreme poverty levels that have transcended decades. The data for both communities, provided by state agencies and the U.S. Census Bureau (2000 Census), is striking.

In West Greenville:

  • The neighborhood poverty rate was more than 40 percent, twice as high as the poverty rate for the Greenville MSA.
  • One in five households was headed by a single parent.
  • Nearly 60 percent of children lived in poor households.

In McDowell County, an Appalachian region that ranks as one of the poorest small communities in the country:

  • The poverty rate was 38 percent.
  • One in every three residents aged 18 to 64 does not have health insurance – the lowest rate of coverage in West Virginia.
  • Of the county's working-age population, 40 percent claimed a disability of some kind.

The report is important because it enhances the Federal Reserve's understanding of high poverty communities and their needs, and identifies issues for future research. Locally, the Richmond Reserve Bank plans to explore community development partnerships in McDowell County and West Greenville to address the report's observations.

The full report and the two case studies are available at

The Richmond Fed serves the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which includes the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and most of West Virginia. As part of the nation's central bank, we're one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that work together with the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors to strengthen the economy and our communities. We manage the nation's money supply to keep inflation low and help the economy grow. We also supervise and regulate financial institutions to help safeguard our nation's financial system and protect the integrity and efficiency of our payments system.


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