Reason, Liberty, & Culture


The Bottom 10% Again in 2008 For Tri-Cities VA-TN

by Lewis Loflin

Tennessee's 1st Congressional District (a safe Republican district) ranks 421st out of 436 districts. Virginia's 9th District (a safe Democratic district) does little better with a ranking of 400, mainly because of more government spending. (Virginia is a wealthier state than Tennessee.)

Worst than many inner city slums. To quote the press (BHC July 20, 2008): "Some of the districts that fared worse included the Bronx in New York, the greater Houston area, and, not surprisingly, the coal counties in Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. In general, under performing districts had a strike or two against them.

Many are rural, all are poor, and in a number of cases, they are districts where the majority of residents are racial minorities." But that isn't true in West Virginia, Kentucky, or the VA 9th or TN 1st, which are 90% plus white. So what is the problem? "In general, residents in the low-ranked districts make less money, are less educated, are sicker and die earlier than their well-off peers. The particulars for this region include:"

  • "A life expectancy of 74.9 years for Tennessee's 1st District and 75.1 years for Virginia's 9th District. The national average is around 78 years." Note the region's workers have worked a lot of toxic manufacturing jobs in years past, plus coal mining, plus many are heavy smokers and/or are obese.
  • "Twenty-two percent of 1st District adults don't have a high school diploma. In the 9th district, more than 25 percent of adults lack a diploma." The press discounts out migration of younger people fleeing poverty, including tens of thousands of college graduates. That drives up the "uneducated" numbers, many of them older.
  • "In both districts, just 17 percent of adults have a bachelor's degree. A mere six percent of 1st District residents have a graduate degree; in the 9th, its 6.9 percent." We have colleges, etc. but it won't help unless we increase wages or provide better jobs outside poverty wage tourism and retirement industries. Most college graduates here work in government, that pays far above the private sector. In other words, it isn't we are stupid, there's just no reason to stay here and starve or flip burgers.
  • "In Tennessee's 1st District, slightly less than 77 percent of children under age 18 are enrolled in school. The 9th District does better, with 86.9 percent enrolled." That should be investigated, in particular the use of multiple and questionable diplomas. But it makes no difference in income and Southwest Virginia is even lower than East Tennessee.
  • "Median earnings are about the same in both districts - $21,639 in East Tennessee and $20,808 in Southwest Virginia. A family of four with an income of $21,200 or less meets federal poverty guidelines." These government figures are not realistic. See Family Income in Bristol.