New study finds persistent racial disparities in West Virginia

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — A newly released report looks at racial disparities in West Virginia.

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy says they want to open up a conversation about it and develop a common way of thinking about race.

According to their annual State of Working West Virginia report titled “The State of Racial Inequality,” although black West Virginians make up only 4 % of West Virginia’s population, they still suffer from educational, financial, and health disparities.

The study used census data and other methods and found per-capita income for black West Virginians is just under $19,000, 27% less than for white West Virginians.

Black West Virginians are disproportionately employed in low wage jobs, they’re also more likely to be unemployed.

Black women also have higher infant mortality rates than their white counterparts.

“What really stood out when doing this study is that those disparities have persisted over time,” said Sean O’Leary, Senior Policy Analyst at the WVCBP.

“What really stood out when doing this study is that those disparities have persisted over time,”

Sean O’Leary, WVCBP

O’Leary says West Virginia is already a poor state that already has low income and that already has a lot of people who aren’t working.

“Despite that, we still have these huge racial disparities and I think that really does point to that this is something that is systemic,” he said.

Dr. Lauri Andress with the West Virginia University School of Public Health agrees.

Andress and other black academics contributed to the report.

“Given that black women and white women live side by side in West Virginia and if they are low income, we think it can’t be poverty because you still have the infants of black women dying at a greater rate than the infants of black women,” she said.

“Given that black women and white women live side by side in West Virginia and if they are low income, we think it can’t be poverty because you still have the infants of black women dying at a greater rate than the infants of black women,”

Dr. Lauri Andress, WVU School of Public Health

Dr. Andress also says racism not only denies access to opportunities and resources, but it also impacts the body through extra cortisol production – she calls this “weathering.”

“It changes the body physiologically and makes it harder to fight off disease, it’s the same mechanism that we’re looking at for some of the vulnerability for racial and ethnic groups in terms of COVID-19.”

All of the data used for this study was from 2018.

They say since COVID-19, these disparities may be even worse.

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