A recent study by the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trust has shown that while the national economy has shown strong growth, one-third of American counties have not only shown no growth, but poverty has actually grown.

The information, released through the Pew Charitable Trust's Stateline initiative, highlighted Carter County as one such county. The study stated, “despite an economic recovery that lifted people out of poverty in most areas of the country, poverty increased in at least one county in every state between 2016 and 2018.”

The 30 percent growth of poverty rates were based on information Stateline took from U.S. Census Bureau data for counties released at the end of the year, and crossed political and demographic data marks, though the majority of the states with significant poverty growth were southern and rural. The overall poverty rate for the period dropped by one percent, from 13 percent to 12 percent.

Carter County, though, was noted as a county that “saw one of the largest poverty rate increases.” Their poverty rate increased 8.5 points, up to 31.1 percent. This is just behind Bullock County, Alabama, which saw their poverty rate increase by 10 points, to 42.5 percent.

Senator Robin Webb told Stateline that what the county lacked in resources, they made up for in spirit.

“This is rural America,” she told the organization. “We're rich in self-sustaining nature and neighbors helping neighbors, but we don't have resources. I've got a car full of toys we're taking to a school (in Carter County) where 60 kids weren't going to have Christmas.”

While Webb was focused on the short-term fixes like charity for getting through the holidays, she also noted that the county and region need a long-term focus on job creation. She discussed the loss of coal-related jobs in neighboring communities, where many of Carter County's residents worked, as contributing to the poverty rate.

“Now they're closing the coal-fired plants, and those tradesmen and women being thrown out of those highly skilled jobs, and it's having a terrible impact,” she told Stateline.

For more information and to read articles related to the original review, visit pewtrusts.org.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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