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How bad are poverty and unemployment in the state’s rural areas?

In South Carolina’s most undeveloped, rural areas, landowners face daily challenges to maintaining traditional land uses and communities struggle with poverty and high unemployment rates. Eighteen percent of South Carolina’s population lives in poverty, compared with 15 percent nationwide. Our statewide unemployment rate is 9.5 percent compared with 8.5 percent nationwide.

The gap between South Carolina and the rest of the country, however, is not as stark as the disparities between rural and urban areas within our state. Rural counties, such as Allendale, Bamberg, Colleton, and Orangeburg are struggling with poverty rates of 40.4, 27.6, 22.6 and 26.7 percent, respectively. By comparison, urban Richland County has a poverty rate of 17 percent and the state average is 18 percent. Similarly, unemployment rates in December 2011 were 17.3, 14.4, 12.2, and 14.2 percent in rural Allendale, Bamberg, Colleton, and Orangeburg counties, while the rate for urban Richland County was 8.3 percent.

A new way forward in South Carolina means empowering these rural areas to harness the untapped potential of their human and natural assets for healthier, more vibrant communities that build wealth from within.

Sources: US Census Bureau, Small Area Estimates Branch, 2010 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates.Department of Employment & Workforce, December 2011, report.

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