CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than five years after the start of the great recession, West Virginians' incomes continue to stagnate and poverty is still pervasive, despite soaring corporate profits nationwide and 41 consecutive months of job growth, according to new Census data released Thursday.
Median household income for West Virginians rose by about $900 to just over $40,000 in 2012, but the change is too small to be statistically significant, according to the Census Bureau. And while median household income is up about $1,300 since 2000, it has declined since 2007 and the start of the recession, when adjusted for inflation.
Median income is a measure of the household that sits directly in the middle of the income distribution. West Virginia's median household income is lower than every state's except Arkansas and Mississippi.
"The story is that we're not changing year-to-year," said Sean O'Leary, a policy analyst at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a left-leaning think tank. "Poverty's high and it's staying high and income's low and it's staying low."
The state-specific data was released with the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey.
Nearly one in five West Virginians -- 17.8 percent -- was living in poverty in 2012, according to the Census data. Again, that's slightly better than in 2011, when it was 18.6 percent, but not a statistically significant amount.
The federal poverty threshold is $23,550 for a family of four. A low-income family is generally defined as one making less than double the federal poverty threshold.
More than 59 percent of West Virginia households had income of less than $50,000 in 2012.
Nearly one in 10 West Virginians was living in extreme poverty in 2012, with incomes less than half the poverty level -- that's less than $11,775 for a family of four. That number is slightly worse than it was in 2011, but again the change is statistically insignificant.
On the whole, the numbers show that West Virginia weathered the recession better than the country as a whole. But the state started off, and remains, worse off economically than the country as a whole.
Nationally, median household incomes are significantly higher than they are in West Virginia -- about $51,000, essentially unchanged since 2011. But that number has fallen from more than $55,000 in 2000, when adjusted for inflation.
"It's not so much that we're doing better," O'Leary said. "During the recession a lot of states did a lot worse than us. We didn't have that big housing boom that then collapsed that a lot of states had."