Published August 1968 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
From the Office of United States Senator Robert C. Byrd 105 Senate Office Building, Washington. D.C. 20510 Volume VIII - Number 34 August 23, 1968 Byrd's Eye View A Public Service Column By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd CLIMBING THE INCOME LADDER The matter of personal income has a good many sensitive aspects In fact, what sometimes appears to be good news may, upon closer examination, need a bit of tempering. For instance, Federal authorities charged with making accurate Nationwide measurements of income levels have reported that personal income in the U.S. has increased 518 percent from 1929 to 1965, or at a compound rate of 5.2 percent annually. These Sherlock Holmes's of the U.S. economic world further report that personal income reached a record high in every State of the Union in 1967, with the 1967 National average of $3,137 per person up $174, or nearly 6 percent, from the total of $2,963. Now these glowing reports are all well and good for any taxpayer to hear, but right away one sort of gets a feeling that if Uncle Sam's hawk-eyed income-watchers would shift their visions a little more from the income side of the picture to the out-go Side, there might be a more complete story. Obviously consumer prices are up. The income-watchers, however, counter that fact by saying consumer prices were only up 2-1/2 percent last year, so that the increase in real per capita personal income was up 3-1/3 percent, on a National basis. Again, granted that these reports on the National economic Situation sound good, West Virginia income earners still need to know where they stand on the Nation's income ladder. According to the diagrams of the Federal statistical sleuths, West Virginia is one of 12 States placed in a geographical category labeled "The Southeast Region." It is reported that, on a State basis, the largest gains in personal income since 1960 have been concentrated in this Southeast Region, and that 8 of the 10 States in the U.S. registering per capita income gains of more than 50 percent from 1960-1967 are in this Region. However, any elation over this news is apt to be a bit deflated when it 13 realized that there is a concentration of low-income States in the Southeast Region and that, of the 12 States with the lowest per capita incomes last year (each one-fifth or more below the National average), 10 are in the Southeast Region. Any improvement noted thus represents a catching up by Southeastern States--a catching up from a long way behind the National average. Closer examination reveals yet other facts bound to concern Mountain State residents. West Virginians were reported to have a per capita personal income of $2,341 for 1967, an amount totaling $796 below the National average of $3,137. This placed West Virginia very nearly at the bottom of the Nation's income ladder in 1967, with a rank of 47th among the 50 States and the District of Columbia. It also indicated a greater dollar disparity between the West Virginia per capita personal income and the National figure in 1967 than in 1960 0 The 1960 National figure was $2,215, whereas the West Virginia figure of $1,594 represented a level of $621 below the National average, giving West Virginia a ranking of 44th on the Nation's 1960 income ladder. So while West Virginia's per capita income has increased, it would appear that it has not kept pace with the National rate. An obvious conclusion here is that climbing the income ladder is not an easy feat.