Census Figures Tell Story of Dramatic Decline in the County Hit Hardest by Recession

An article in the New York Times focused on the county where, according to census figures published Thursday, "the falloff of the economy...was the steepest in the country." Greenwood county, a district of nearly 70,000 in South Carolina, saw its poverty rate double to 24 percent from 2007 to 2010, "the largest increase for any county in the nation."

Residents pointed at the closing of textile mills as one of the central causes of the decline. The Times writes: "The number of workers in manufacturing alone fell by a quarter in the county from 2005 to 2009, according to a census survey of employers." The mills were not alone responsible for the devastating decline, however, as layoffs from "a foundry, restaurants and construction companies [also] pummeled the county’s residents." According to the Times, the "decline also engulfed the middle class." Median household income fell by 28 percent over the period--a loss of nearly $12,000 in annual earnings.
A closer look at the county's social demographic characteristics might worry people around the country, as by many indications Greenwood residents are not so different from the average American. Over a quarter of residents had at least some college education in 2009, close to the 27 percent nationally. And Greenwood contains a number of institutions that can be as sprouting--or having sprouted--from economic success; the county "has a public university, which grants four-year degrees, a museum and a shopping mall."

But the economy does not appear to be improving in Greenwood. Unless it does, residents will be forced to do what they can to stay afloat. Writes the Times: "Apache Pawn and Gun, a pawn shop in town, is packed with items sold by people trying to make ends meet."

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