Poverty rates double in surrounding counties over the last 15 years

RICHMOND, Va. - The number of people living in poverty in the counties surrounding Richmond is growing at a faster rate than the city, according a study by the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg.

The report found that the number of those living in poverty in Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover is up 110% from 2000-2014. The finding coincides with an overall spike in poverty of 75% in the Richmond region during that same time period, according to the United Way.

“[Poverty is] moving in ways that defies the narratives we’ve had as a region over time, which is that it’s a city problem," said James Taylor, CEO of the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg. "We’re seeing that the growth in Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover is faster than in the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, and Colonial Heights.”

The federal poverty level for a family of four is around $20,000 per year; however, Taylor said that threshold is extremely low and does not adequately meet the needs of a family in our region.

The United Way found that 293,360 people, or 27.2% of the population in the Richmond region, make less than 200% of the federal poverty level, which equates to approximately $40,000 per year.

Taylor said the geographical spread of the region may play into what some would call hidden pockets of concentrated poverty in the counties.

"We’re a very large expanse for this kind of population, so it’s very easy to not see different dynamics," Taylor said. "The narrative is bigger than even our own jurisdictions, so figuring out ways we can work across those jurisdictions to help the population wherever it is."

The overall population of the Richmond region grew steadily from 2000-2015, according to census data.  The population was 941, 111 in the year 2000, and grew to an estimated 1, 140,223 people in 2015.

The United Way and other local non-profit organizations said the report shows the need to think of solutions that can impact the entire region not just the cities.

You can read the entire study here.