Daniel Suddeath

Daniel Suddeath, Glasgow Daily Times editor

Almost a year to the day of this column's publishing, I penned an op-ed about a study conducted by 24/7 Wall Street claiming Glasgow was the poorest town in Kentucky.

This week, the same organization reported the same findings in another story published in the USA Today. According to 24/7, Glasgow remains the poorest town in Kentucky.

Let's get some of the methodology questions answered first.

In the 2018 study, 24/7 claimed it based its findings on the median household income for towns with a population between 1,000 and 25,000 according to U.S. Census Bureau information from 2012-16. The study, according to 24/7, did not include areas where "the margin of error at 90% confidence was greater than 10% of both median household income and population."

Basically, there are some areas that weren't included because the data wasn't thought to be reliable. The story I read online this week didn't have the same disclaimer at the end about the methodology behind the report, but it seems the conclusions and statistics used to back those assertions were the same.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Glasgow's median household income is almost $16,000 less than the state average of $46,535. Our poverty rate is 29 percent, well above the Kentucky average. Our median home value is also less than the state average.

Please go verify these numbers on your own at www.census.gov.

The reactions were all over the map last year. Some people said they could easily see how we could receive such a ranking. They pointed to the closure of multiple businesses, the cutbacks in employment at some of our industries and the lack of high-paying jobs in Glasgow.

Others thought the report was ludicrous. They pointed to the new banks being built in Glasgow, the high rankings our public schools receive and the nice houses many in our town occupy.

But statistics generally are more reliable than feelings. Yes, it's great to see new banks being built, but you need look no further than the Great Recession of 2008 to understand that success in the banking industry is not always a sign of financial well-being in a community, state or even a nation.

Also, there will always be people who are financially stable or even rich, but we don't base trends on the few, we base them on the majority.

I would say forget about the ranking and focus on the statistics. I'm sure there are poorer places in Kentucky to live, and Glasgow could be in worse shape. But those Census numbers are pretty depressing whether we're the poorest, sixth poorest or 19th poorest in the commonwealth.

Those statistics say that more than a quarter of us live below the poverty level and that those of us who live here have less educational attainment than most other communities.

An important note about that, as I received questions about this portion of the report oodles of times last year. This study is about people who live here. We may have great graduation rates and some of the best public schools in Kentucky, but once those students graduate and move on to other communities, they aren't Glasgow residents anymore. This means we need to do a better job of retaining those outstanding young minds.

Back to the numbers.

We earn less than the average Kentuckian, and our homes are worth less than the median value in the commonwealth, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Does it really matter where we're ranked among other towns in Kentucky if these statistics are true, or even close to factual?

Some told me I should have never written that column because it presented Glasgow in a bad light. They said that my job should be to cheerlead our town, not to point out its negatives. My response remains the same — journalism is often about dealing with unsavory facts, but they must be reported if we intend to improve our community and hold people accountable.

During Coffee with the Editor last month, Glasgow Electric Plant Board chair D.T. Froedge asked me, and I'm going to summarize here, why the Daily Times is against poor people. He was referring to our reporting on the ongoing issue over electric rates.

We ended up having what I felt was a good discussion and I'm glad he came. My answer is related to why this column and others like it have been published. The great factor underneath all the mudslinging that's happened over our electric rates is a simple one — we are a poor community. We have people here who do not make enough money to pay for increases for almost any service, and who struggle to put food on their tables.

That may be because we have an aging population. Perhaps it's related to drug abuse. It could also be emblematic of the decline of some our former large employers and the ever-changing landscape of agriculture.

But if we are not a town that's stricken with poverty, would we have such harsh reactions when utility bills are raised? Would we see so many turn to drugs? Would we have so many empty buildings? It is strange to consider, since Glasgow is close to Bowling Green, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Yes, Glasgow could be worse, but we could also be better. We can argue over rankings, or we can look in the mirror and get real about our future.

Suddeath is the editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. His column appears in the Thursday edition and at various times throughout the week. Reach him at 270-678-5171, or by email at dsuddeath@glasgowdailytimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @DsuddeathGDT.

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