Beyond the Poverty: Challenges and promise in one of the nation's poorest counties

05/24/2013 11:09 AM

BOONEVILLE — In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau figures placed Owsley County squarely among the poorest three counties in the nation.

It’s in the heart of Eastern Kentucky’s stretch of Appalachian mountains. And it’s far enough away from I-75 and the Mountain Parkway that it’s about as isolated from major transportation routes — and commerce — as any county in the commonwealth.

More than 39 percent of the county’s 4,722 people live below the federal poverty rate, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. That’s more than double the percentage for Kentucky as a whole.

And the median household income is $19,344 — less than half of the average for Kentucky. One of the reason’s it’s even that high in Owsley County is the federal government. Last year, the New York Times charted the income each county in the country received from government benefits, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

No county had a higher percentage of government support as a share of personal income than Owsley County with its 53 percent. The national average is 17.6 percent.

That underscores the challenges Owsley County residents face. But some are trying to combat the symptoms and stigmas and move beyond the poverty:


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