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How bad are poverty and unemployment in South Carolina’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 higher unemployment rates than in urban areas. In South Carolina, 16.8 percent of the population lives in poverty, compared with 14.7 percent nationwide. However, statewide unemployment has been decreasing steadily in recent years, with South Carolina currently at a 4.4 percent unemployment rate, compared with 4.5 percent nationwide.

The gap between South Carolina and the rest of the country 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 41.0, 32.7, 23.1 and 24.0 percent, respectively. By comparison, urban Richland County has a poverty rate of 15.8 percent and the state average is 16.8 percent.

Unemployment rates in rural Allendale, Bamberg, Colleton, and Orangeburg counties are 8.1, 8.0, 5.0, and 7.7 percent, respectively, while the rate for urban Richland County stands at 4.4 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, 2015 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, Department of Employment & Workforce, 2017, report.

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