Tri-Cities kids are behind economically

by Lewis Loflin


The Bristol Herald Courier opinion page on March 20, 2017 went into a rant titled "Trump ignored Appalachia" over cutting funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission. They claimed the number of high poverty (distressed) counties has been cut from 295 to 90. Yet the Associated Press on May 23, 2004 reported that the ARC had spent $10 billion over 40 years and "the number of counties in the region that are considered 'distressed' have been reduced from 223 to 91 since 1965." Then why if only 223 counties were "distressed" do we have 410 counties? Now we have 295 down to 90 in 2017? Which is it?

Nothing has changed in 2017. Below stands as a historical reference.

See Bristol Virginia Region Exposed 2017
Growing Poverty Job Losses Tri-Cities VA-TN 2016
Growing Poverty Job Losses Tri-Cities VA-TN 2015

I have just updated this page for October 2006. The per capita income has gone up in the region, but the number of children falling behind is getting worse. The best explanation is the growth of retirement communities and move-in retirees. They have much higher income than many working local people, but also drive up the cost of living. In 2007 Washington County VA is the wealthiest county in Southwest VA, but the free/reduced lunch rate is 40%.

New Data 2012

Explaining poverty by the numbers

2008 ranked the region with inner-city slums on issues such as health, income, education. That was in 2008, it was true in 1998 and in 1988. In 2012 it's more of the same with no end in sight.

Let's begin our journey with a new study released by Voices for Virginia's Children ( revealing the ten most impoverished Virginia communities in regards to children, which no surprise again includes Bristol:

Danville city - 41.7% - 43,055 people, White 46.7%, Black 48.3%.

Petersburg city - 41.4% - 33,740 people, 79.00% Black, 18.5% White.

Martinsville city - 36.1% - 15,416 people, 55.38% White, 42.55% Black.

Galax city - 35.9% - 6,837 people, 86.11% White, 6.26% Black.

Richmond city - 35.0% - 197,790 people, 38.30% White, 57.19% Black.

Buchanan County - 34.9% - 26,978 people. 96.75% White, 2.62% Black.

Roanoke city - 33.9% - 94,911 people. 69.38% White, 26.74% Black.

Bristol city - 33.9% - 17,367 people, 92.54% White, 5.57% Black.

Franklin city - 33.2% - 8,582 people, 39.4% White, 56.9% Black.

Lee County - 33.1% - 25,001 people, 96.3% White, 2.9% black.

Virginia pop. 8,001,024 - 64.8% Non-Hispanic White, 19.4% African-American, 7.9% Hispanic, 5.5% Asian, so by the numbers; white: 5.18 million; black: 1.55 million; Hispanic: 632,000: Asian: 440,000.

So according to going by race 28 percent of black kids, 18 percent of Hispanics, and 10 percent of white kids, and 9 percent of Asian kids live in poverty defined by the unrealistic number of $22,000 for a family of four. (I believe it's much higher than that.) That's 518,000 poor white kids, 434,000 poor black kids, and 113,760 poor Hispanic kids, and 39,600 Asian kids.

None of these ten communities listed above had a substantial Asian or Hispanic populations. There are two factors that determine child poverty in my view and that's unwed motherhood and income. It's clear in those communities with large black population, they will have high child poverty rates because of the collapse of the black family. claims 72 percent of black kids live in single parent homes.

Besides the economic problems, social breakdown makes the situation worse. Poor people can't afford these problems because they llack the resources to deal with them. According to, homes without fathers ultimately affect children in numerous tragic ways:

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes.

To further quote,

Compared to the 72 percent in our communities, 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent.


For blacks this is compounded in many areas by the large influx of Hispanics displacing disproportionate numbers of blacks from low-end jobs. With no private sector job growth since 1999 (New York Times), and the deluge of legal/illegal immigration, somebody has to lose. The meat packing industry in the Shenandoah Valley for example once employed large numbers of blacks at good wages, today employ illegal aliens at low pay.

While liberal advocates like to yell race for their political agenda, they along with business created this mess. They want the country swamped with poor third-world immigrants seeing them as votes. They reward self-destructive behavior making matters worse. Business also gets their cheap labor. Poverty also grows liberal social programs and creates jobs for affluent white-collar college graduates. The only solutions came up with more social programs and not a word on economics or self-destructive behavior.

Liberals scorn traditional values that once kept poor people from excessive self-destructive behavior they could ill afford. The decline of traditional values across the board combined with a low-wage economy is a disaster that has come to this region. Bristol, Galax, Lee County, and Buchanan are nearly 100 percent white, yet are suffering many of the same problems as blacks.

New Data for 2006


Per capita income 2002: 

Carter:    $20,233
Hawkins:   $21,564
Johnson:   $16,269
Sullivan:  $26,306 

Percent of People Receiving Food Stamps:

Carter:    16.2%
Hawkins:   14.9%
Johnson:   18.6%
Sullivan:  11.9%

Percent of Students Participating in 
Free/Reduced Lunch Program 2003: 

Carter:    45.2%
Hawkins:   42.5%
Johnson:   53.8%
Sullivan:  29.9%


Per Capita Income 2004:

Bristol*   $26,483
Buchanan   $22,960
Dickenson  $18,391
Lee        $21,357
Russell    $21,311
Scott      $21,481
Smyth      $23,113
Tazewll    $23,787
Wise       $22,240

The annual Kids Count report, published by the Maryland-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, a children's advocacy group, ranked Tennessee 43rd overall. Virginia fared much better, at 14th. Using the number of students approved for federally assisted school lunch programs, the report showed that the number of poor children in the region has. climbed steadily in the past couple of years.

Quoting Diane Wise, regional coordinator for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, "I feel like (the economy) is the greatest issue. We've had so many plants and industries closing down, and people have moved to lower-wage jobs. "We do not have the high-paying jobs that we need in this area. The federal National School Lunch Program provides free or reduced-price lunches to children from low-income families. A higher percentage of children enrolled in the program indicate an increasing rate of poverty.

...Every county in Southwest Virginia except Dickenson saw an increase between 1995 and 2002 in the percentage of children approved for free or reduced-price school meals. All had higher percentages than the state average of 32. Buchanan County (a declining coal mining community) saw the greatest increase in the area 12 percentage points bringing its rate to 69 percent. It was one of the highest rates in the state. Tazewell and Wise (also coal mining communities) counties had 11 percentage point increases to 47 percent and 48 percent, respectively during the same tune span. Russell County had a 7 percentage point jump to 47 percent.

In Northeast Tennessee, multiple localities saw increased rates of children participating in the meals program since 1998. Sullivan County, including Bristol TN, saw a 1 percentage point hike to 31 percent, while Hawkins County had a 4 percentage point jump to 41 percent. The state average was 36 percent. Kids Count statistics also show that while the percentage of children on the meals program has risen, the total number of people in the area has declined - an indicator that those making money are moving away leaving a more destitute demographic behind.

Ref BHC July 18, 2004

ON THE NET Kids Count at

Per Capita Income Definitions: Aggregate income for a locality divided by the total number of individuals in the locality.

Note: Per capita income is often used as a measure of the wealth of the population of locality or state, particularly in comparison to other localities or states. Per capita income gives no indication of the distribution of that income within the state or locality, so a small wealthy class can increase the measured per-capita income far above that of the majority of the population.

* Bristol and Washington County have been combined, masking the huge income drop in Bristol. Washington County has a very wealthy community in Abingdon and South Holston Lake.