Welcome to Athens County: The Poorest County in Ohio

For the first two years of college I attended Ohio University: a University that sits in the heart of Appalachia in South East Ohio.  Although the surrounding mountains and rolling hills are beautiful, what lies within Athens County is less than beautiful.  A 2014 study shows that Athens county has the highest percentage of people with low to moderate income in the entire state of Ohio.  Because Athens is a college town this statistic had to take into consideration the number of students living in houses off campus.  Even after taking this into consideration, the outcome of this study was still shocking.  In Athens county, 32 percent of its residents live below the poverty line, meaning they make less than twenty thousand dollars a year.  WIthin the city of Athens the number of residents living below the poverty line is 54 percent.  I have witnessed this first hand.  I frequented uptown Athens quite a bit while I attended OU.  I worked at a sandwich shop on it’s main strip.  I went to shows at local venues.  There are also many great restaurants that my friends and I would go to regularly.  At the time it seemed great.  A typical small American college town that was kept out of the greedy hands of corporate America.  Unfortunately this reality was too good to be true.

While I attended OU there was a bar that my friends and I would go to a lot called the Smiling Skull Saloon.  It was an obscure bar where people who didn’t really like the uptown bar scene went to.  A place where one could go and enjoy a drink and conversation.  Keep in mind that this bar was not in town.  It lied more on the outskirts where the real residents of Athens lived.  I’m not talking about OU students but actual Athens residents.  What I saw was far from pleasantly rural: run down houses, unkept yards, dirty children, beer cans lying on the porch, etc.  The more I saw these homes the more I realized the cause of these living conditions.  Lack of education is what I believe to be the number one cause of poverty in Athens County.  With these low incomes the residents of Athens could never afford to go to school and receive an education.  Living in Appalachia, it is hard to see the importance of an education.  Not only that the opportunity to do so way not always be available.  Whether those reasons are financial or cultural. Without an education the people living below the property line will never be able to meet the cost of living that it takes to thrive in the city.  It takes between 30 and 37 thousand dollars annually to comfortably support a family of for.  Less than half of Athens County residents are receiving that annual income.


Samuel Souders


5 thoughts on “Welcome to Athens County: The Poorest County in Ohio

  1. I always knew Athens was a small town and somewhat poor but didn’t realize just how much poverty there really is. Education is a huge role in being healthy and active and those families have no access to any. Their health can only decrease without proper care but where can they fund the money to get any? Universal heath care would be so beneficial in our country but the funds to pay doctors, nurses, etc would not be there.
    Katie Schwettmann


  2. I had no idea Athens was such a poor county. I have several friends that go to OU and they are all actually pretty wealthy middle class. I knew there were parts of eastern Ohio that weren’t very wealthy but not Athens. The Smiling Skull Saloon story was a great image of the situation over there. I really like your opinions on poverty. Great blog

    Zach Werner


  3. We almost always just think of OU and all of the college students / town when we think of Athens, Ohio. This is an interesting post on the truth of poverty in the area! I never realized how poor it is.

    Olivia Turner


  4. Wow! I never knew this, I have friends that go there for college and they’re always talking about how nice it is there and talking it up. I guess now I got something to say against them when they talk about UC!

    Eli Farmer


  5. As an Ohio resident, I had no idea that Athens was such a poor area. Since there is a fairly large university nearby, one would think that more people would be educated.


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