Why West Virginia is so Poor

Why West Virginia is so Poor

Watch the Logistics of X episode diving deeper on the logistics of crowd control at the Hajj: https://nebula.tv/videos/wendover-the-logistics-of-coal-mining
Sign up for Nebula for 40% off at https://go.nebula.tv/wendover

Watch Jet Lag: The Game at http://youtube.com/jetlagthegame

Buy a Wendover Productions t-shirt: https://standard.tv/collections/wendover-productions/products/wendover-productions-shirt

Subscribe to Half as Interesting (The other channel from Wendover Productions): https://www.youtube.com/halfasinteresting

Youtube: http://www.YouTube.com/WendoverProductions
Instagram: http://Instagram.com/sam.from.wendover
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/WendoverPro
Sponsorship Enquiries: wendover@standard.tv
Other emails: sam@wendover.productions
Reddit: http://Reddit.com/r/WendoverProductions

Writing by Sam Denby and Tristan Purdy
Editing by Alexander Williard
Animation led by Max Moser
Sound by Graham Haerther
Thumbnail by Simon Buckmaster

[1] https://measureofamerica.org/maps/?state^life_expect^all_all^Health^health
[2] https://dhhr.wv.gov/HSC/SS/Vital_Statistics/Documents/Vital2019.pdf
[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/193290/unemployment-rate-in-the-usa-since-1990/; https://www.statista.com/statistics/190813/unemployment-rate-in-west-virginia-since-1992/
[4] https://www.charlottesweb.com/where-in-us-poorest-mental-health
[5] https://www.npr.org/2016/12/22/506550248/drug-firms-make-millions-by-sending-opioid-pills-to-w-va-report-says
[6] https://www.arc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/West-Virginia-ARC-4-YR-Plan-FY-2022.pdf
[7] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261410553_The_Flatness_of_US_States
[8] https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-9/forty-years-of-falling-manufacturing-employment.htm
[9] https://www.nam.org/state-manufacturing-data/2021-west-virginia-manufacturing-facts/#:~:text=Manufacturers%20in%20West%20Virginia%20account,employing%207.01%25%20of%20the%20workforce

You may also like...

46 Responses

  1. Firstname Lastname says:

    When one of your senators is a coal mine owner, the failure to transition off coal is probably not purely a coincidence.

    • Павук says:

      But when the entire state relied on coal for so long and so heavily, it is not a surprise that their senator is a representative of the industry so many there are involved in.

    • Firstname Lastname says:

      @Павук It’s not surprising insofar as American politicians tend to all be representatives of the upper class rather than working class, but a senator that was a coal miner would act far differently from a mine owner.

    • 2x2is22 says:

      It has nothing to do with the Senator. There is just no financial incentive to transition. There is market demand for coal, and so coal shall be supplied. No amount of policy can change that. WV could elect Bernie Sanders and it’ll still be selling coal, so long as it can do so cost-competitively with other States.

    • Firstname Lastname says:

      @2x2is22 It kinda does have something to do with the senator.

      It’s the senator that can obstruct bills until green energy initiatives are removed and more fossil fuel subsidies are added.

    • Scott P says:

      Make that Senator and Governor

  2. Hippopotamus Bosch says:

    The “resource curse” applies just as much to US states as it does African nations.

  3. Grayson Watson says:

    I’m a WV native and this is the most informative piece of media about the struggles of our state I have ever seen. Very well done!

    • BoogieDaddy says:

      Bluefield native here. You said it, this was the most clear-cut explanation I’ve ever heard. It’s so sad to see the continued suffering of our home state. I hope that one day things will change for the better.

    • The Frenchie Funny Club says:

      Where the FRENCHIE funny club was created ❤

  4. Matthew Dunford says:

    This shows remarkable parallels with the Welsh Valleys in the UK. Economically deprived, ex coal mining area, long and thin towns allong narrow roads, lack of good agricultural land. But still a rugged and beautiful place. I guess it’s a story that is repeated time and time again of an area and it’s people being exploited for natural resources and then abandoned as soon as they are no longer required.

    • Durray says:

      I was literally thinking the same. I have worked all over the Rhondda, Cynon and Merthyr Valleys and the similarities in terms of history but also geographic economic consequences is striking!

    • Antonio Lim says:

      Believe it or not, the Appalachians are so old that those *are* the same mountains as the ones in West Virginia. The Appalachians formed on Pangea and separated as the plates did. The Atlas Mountains in Africa are also the same range.

    • jinxtacy says:

      A quick question, were these places populated before the economic incentive of coal. I know that the company town model comes from somewhere in the UK. A part of what allowed these West Virginia towns to even get established was the company currency of scripts which effectively lock them into the town, whereas a natural labor flow would probably leave the companies short on labor or have to pay much higher rates as coal would be saying as a job you do for a couple years save up money and go back to common society. The way they set it up led to multi-generational dependency and eventually you get my daddy was a coal miner, and his daddy and his daddy before him. We all just try and figure out how to exist in this world and a lot of times we follow the models that show themselves to be successful but the model never broke and just slowly withered. It’s kind of like boiling a frog.

    • Jerome Fitzroy says:

      Coal is bad in every sense.

    • Antonio Lim says:

      @jinxtacy Yes, many towns in WV were founded before coal. Most of the earliest ones were founded as forts. There was also a great deal of logging before coal. But the area was very sparsely populated, as farming and accessing the regions were difficult (and still are). And you’re correct in your comment on company towns and scrip.

  5. Erik Žiak says:

    Since you mentioned Slovakia, I see some more parallels. There is a region where coal mining was the thing over decades. For the last decade, coal production and power generation in a power plant built in the region is a net loss operation. The state has to pay subsidies in order to make coal mining and electricity production viable. But this time is also coming to an end. Currently 5 nuclear reactors run at full power and provide the majority of electricity in Slovakia (60%), with a 6th reactor under construction (the rest is 15% hydro, then other sources and only about 3% brown coal from the region I talk about). The region of upper Nitra slowly but steadily gets away from coal mining (and burning in the power plant) and the last mines are about to be shut down soon, if already not closed as I write this comment. Finally. It was economically bad, but the state could not let the people become unemployed and create what happened in West Virginia, as it would cause even bigger problems in the long run. Ecologically, it was a bad thing from the start, but back then nobody knew the full scale of impacts that come with burning brown coal. The region is striving with redevelopment but I hold my fingers crossed it will manage to get on track to prosperity. State subsidies, once for coal mining and burning for electricity, have shifted to create something other.

    • Blankity blank blank says:

      I’ll pray that Slovakia gets through this as well. These areas need more development.

    • Erik Žiak says:

      @Blankity blank blank It is only a small part of Slovakia and we have worse off regions in the central southern part of Slovakia than the upper Nitra region, where things are improving, contrary to those “hunger valleys” as we call them – mostly Rimavská Sobota and Revúca, where unemployment is around 20%. Those regions are hard to develop, there is nothing besides hills, but not as great hills as other hills (little tourism potential). Infrastructure is poor as well.

    • Marko McLane says:

      He didn’t even get his facts right. Slovakias life expectancy in 2023 is 78 years. Only one year less than americas 79 years.

  6. scot60 says:

    My grandfather was a coal miner. He was medically retired in his 50s because he only had a half lung left due to the coal dust. My grandparents moved to Florida and never looked back. My parents left for California when my dad entered the Navy. We wound up in Texas. My dad used to say, “honey we couldn’t afford to send you to college but at least you weren’t raised in W. Va

    • N A says:

      don’t you get free college from your dad’s military benefit? I thought dependents of veterans get free college?

  7. ChoKwo says:

    There are some odd country comparisons here. Slovakia isn’t amazing but it’s a fairly decent place to live. Panama’s income is taken out of context. Panama is one of the best countries to live in Central America, and $14000 there goes much farther than in the US. McDowell County adjusted for US cost of living is more similar to Tanzania than Panama.

    • An O. Nymous says:

      Yeah I was way more surprised that Slovakias life expectancy was as low as WVs than the reverse.

    • Milk Master69 says:

      I agree. There are also some mistakes/misleading information here. West Virginia wasn’t even a state till 1863, yet this video presents it as one as far back as 1854? (Using modern borders as well…) West Virginia became a state during the Civil War. A lot of critical information and context are very carelessly left out, not just regarding borders. Using those contrived comparisons to other countries is just the tip of the iceberg regarding all the things wrong with this video.

    • Marcus Lobenstein says:

      Its not its a bit higher in słowakia 79 i think i live in Poland

    • x says:

      Hey, mentioning Panama without missing the cost-of-living erases serious nuance. Bet those West Virginians aren’t paying Panama prices but are paying Dollar General prices.

    • Ralphie Raccoon says:

      A PPP adjusted figure would have been more appropriate there.

  8. j k says:

    This channel goes to the expense of providing accurate subtitles, not just auto generated ones. That’s appreciated, thanks.

  9. Paul Bernhardt says:

    One of the saddest things about West Virginia is the key indicator of the level of opioid addiction. The number of cheap flights from Huntington, WV to Orlando, St. Pete, Destin. Due to quirks in ease of obtaining prescriptions in Florida, it was a major pipeline of moving illegal opioids to WVa. So sad.

    • BoogieDaddy says:

      Ah yes, the ole OxyContin express.

    • Blog Design says:

      I remember Washington Post mentioned that a few years ago back when opioids was becoming a national issue not just a regional issue like it only happens in major cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, Inland Empire, San Francisco and Sacramento areas.

  10. Caleb Wilson says:

    As a resident of West Virginia. I genuinely appreciate you at least giving some story about the state. I have often found that most people believe that West Virginia is Western Virginia and don’t even realize it is a separate state. Much appreciated for the distinction.

    • G. R. says:

      I was thinking the same, and I’m not even from your home. Peace and good luck

    • Rainer Robinson says:

      “OH you’re from WV? I’ve been to Richmond!”

    • Chuck Three says:

      I go to west Virginia all the time, but I can’t even tell you the last time I was in West Virginia

    • Atkascha says:

      People, particularly on YouTube, like to point fingers at California. Its mainly for political reasons, or just farming views, likes and clicks if we’re being honest (making those YT bucks). California, if it were a country, would be the 8th richest country on the planet next to Germany. Its the #1 tech/ag/tourism state and has oil and gas, biotech, etc. 12% of the country lives in 1 state, of course it’ll have issues.

      Meanwhile…. WV, AR, MS, MO, AL, parts of TN, and parts of IL and so many other states have towns where 40% (2 out of 5 people) are living below the poverty line. There are literal semi-ghost towns in some of those states where there’s no industry whatsoever, but people still live there. They’re the ones that need help, empathy and compassion, and they’re never in the news or they’re drowned out by “look at California!!!!”.

      I’m over seeing the same 5 blocks of the Tenderloin in San Francisco (the shadiest part of that city) and some “react streamers” making stupid comments, just to make some money and stir up a comments section. Nearly a dozen states have failed their citizens, and they never are in the news

    • KinaestheticDmaw says:

      @AtkaschaThe problem is that those states you have listed HAVE had people try to give them compassion. Time changes and industry changes. People have tried to bring trainings, education, etc, in order to help displaced workers pivot into more modern jobs. That and they continuously vote against utterly anything that helps them get out of the hole. Instead voting for a political party that wants to keep their “glory days” which just isn’t feasible in the 21st century. It’s really an epidemic of stupidity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *