South Carolina

47,953 live in poverty in York, Lancaster, Chester counties. Here’s how it affects us

The funding area schools will get next school year depends on data released Monday that shows the poorest areas.

The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates report from the U.S. Census Bureau is the only single-year record of up-to-date income and poverty statistics for 3,141 counties and 13,213 school districts across the United States. Data from that report is part of the funding formula for Title 1 school eligibility.

Title 1 distributes additional funding to schools in lower income, higher poverty areas. State Department of Education data lists 15 Title 1 schools in York County, nine in Lancaster County and six in Chester County. Most are elementary schools.

School district trend data dates back to 1999. Funding for the 2019-2020 school year will be based on the 2017 poverty estimates released Monday.

By school district

Among districts in York, Lancaster and Chester counties, Fort Mill has the lowest poverty rate and Chester County the highest for every year since 1999. Other numbers from the report vary.

School age children living in poverty in the six school districts in York, Lancaster and Chester counties.

Chester County (27.7 percent), York (22.1 percent) and Lancaster County (17.9 percent) all had more students in poverty in 2017 than the national average for school districts -- 17.3 percent. Rock Hill schools almost hit that number exactly, at 17.2 percent.

Clover (11.2 percent) and Fort Mill (6 percent) schools had noticeably lower poverty levels.

Only Chester County and York schools had student poverty levels higher than the state average -- 21.3 percent. That number ranks South Carolina seventh highest in the nation, behind Mississippi, District of Columbia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama and West Virginia.

Only Rock Hill schools saw a poverty rate increase in the most recent year. It jumped from 16.1 percent in 2016 to 17.2 percent in 2017.

Lancaster County schools poverty rates are down 10 percent in three years. The rate there peaked in 2014 at 27.8 percent. The most recent figure is 17.9 percent.

While consistently highest, Chester County schools have more rate fluctuation than most. A 2011 peak of 36.7 percent dropped more than 7 percent in two years, but jumped back up to 36.2 percent in 2015. It dropped both years since, by almost 9 percent total to 27.7 percent.

Clover schools saw an 8 percent reduction in poverty from 2011 to 2017. Now Clover sits at 11.2 percent. Fort Mill schools started a decline in poverty rates back in 2005, when the peak rate there was 12.3 percent — more than twice the current figure of 6 percent.

York schools have a rate down 7 percent from the peak there in 2011, but up more than 4 percent from 2016. In 2017 York hit 22.1 percent.

Fort Mill, Clover and Lancaster schools all have lower poverty rates now than they did in 2007, the last year before the Great Recession. Chester, York and Rock Hill schools all have higher poverty rates than in 2007.

For more details on rates, click here.

A wider view

Poverty isn’t only school age children.

In South Carolina, 24.1 percent of children under age 5 live in poverty. At 4 percent higher than the national average, South Carolina ranks ninth highest in the country.

South Carolina ranks eighth highest nationally for poverty among all people younger than 18. Chester County has 30.1 percent in poverty, followed by Lancaster County at 19.1 percent and York County at 15.3 percent. All but York County have higher rates than the national 18.4 percent average.

Together, the tri-county area has 15,783 children living in poverty.

For all ages, there are 47,953 people in poverty among the three counties. All three counties have lower rates than they did two years ago, though only Chester County lowered its rate from 2016 to 2017.

By county

County data shows similar numbers.

Chester County has 28.2 percent of its school-age children living in poverty. Lancaster County is a good bit lower at 18.2 percent. York County has the lowest rate at 14.3 percent.

South Carolina comes in at 21.3 percent and the country at 17.3 percent.

chart (1).jpeg
School age children living in poverty, by county, in York, Lancaster and Chester counties.

Despite its lower percentage, there are about twice as many school-age children in York County living in poverty — York County has far more residents — as there are in Lancaster and Chester counties combined.

Together, there are 10,936 such children across the three counties. York County has 6,821 children, compared to 2,611 in Lancaster County and 1,504 in Chester County.

York County saw its poverty rate among those children increase 1 percent in a year, while Lancaster County dropped 2 percent and Chester County dropped almost 1 percent. Chester County saw its lowest rate since 2010. Lancaster County registered its lowest since 2002.

chart (2).jpeg
Total poverty shown in York, Lancaster and Chester counties.

Reason for hope

Since 1997, all three counties track along state and national trends of higher incomes. The median household income is up $8,000 from 2011 to 2017. Lancaster County is up almost $17,000 from 2013 to 2017.

York County, the highest median income of the three, is up $11,000 from 2011 to 2017. York County has had a higher median income than the national average since 2009. The latest number is $62,620 per home.

Lancaster County matched the state average in 2015, but in two years since outpaced it by about $7,000. Lancaster County came in at $57,667 in 2017. Chester County finished at $40,850.

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Median household income is up in York, Lancaster and Chester counties.

New job announcements have become common in some of the fastest growth areas in the region for job creation. The South Carolina Department of Commerce announced a dozen corporate relocations or expansions into the three counties. They combine for 2,355 new jobs.

For people still struggling to get or keep work, various social service groups exist. Perhaps the largest ongoing effort involves Pathways Community Center, set to open in spring 2019 and eventually combine 30-40 nonprofits and service agencies to serve the homeless and indigent communities.

Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys spoke recently when Pathways board members announced community partners had matched a $100,000 corporate donation for the center from JM Cope Construction.

“Certain people have had opportunities in life to do really big things,” Gettys said. “And that’s wonderful for those.”

But, Gettys said, not everyone has. And anyone can do something daily to help out someone who needs it.

“We’re all capable of service,” he said. “We all know that we can lead, because we can all serve.”

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