"Were the Coal Association’s world view true, we would see a long upward trend in prosperity in West Virginia, beginning in the 1870s and 1880s," he writes. "By now, well over a century later, we would have ridden that coal train to prosperity. That’s not what happened."
He makes his case with comparative data: "In 1880, West Virginia was a middle class to lower middle class state. While economic statistics from that long ago are harder to come by, the available data shows that per-capita income in West Virginia was 37th of the 46 states and territories. By 1929 we were 37th of the then 48 states. We topped out at 33rd place in 1933. Since then it has been a long, slow slide to the bottom. We slipped by Arkansas in 1990 for 48th place before settling into 49th place where we have been ever since."
McFerrin writes that "a bazillion other factors could have had an impact on West Virginia’s economy. Yet through it all, there has been one constant. West Virginia has been constant in its fealty to the coal industry. We have spent the last century being solicitous of the needs of the coal industry and it has led us to the bottom." (Read more)