Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders caused a social media firestorm on Sunday when he claimed that “When you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”
But according to the 2010 U.S. Census (the last census year), the five poorest counties in the country are all at least 95 percent white.
The nation’s poorest county — Owsley, Kentucky — is more than 98 percent white. (And it’s only getting poorer.) In 2014, National Review’s Kevin Williams made Owsley the subject of a piece titled “The Big White Ghetto.”
“If the people here weren’t 98.5 percent white, we’d call it a reservation,” Williams wrote.
Owsley is only 0.5 percent black. The nation’s second poorest county, Lee, Kentucky, is 95 percent white. Lee is just two percent black and one percent Hispanic.
Four of the five poorest counties in America are in Kentucky. Generally speaking, the rural parts of Kentucky tend to be both white and very poor. In 2014, The New York Times named the ten hardest counties to live in America. Six of them are in eastern Kentucky. Clay County — which isn’t even one of the five poorest counties — was named the hardest place to live in America. Clay’s population is 94 percent white. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has called for massive tax reductions in Kentucky’s poorer counties to jumpstart the local economy.
The nation’s fourth poorest county — Brooks, Texas — is 96 percent white. Located near the Mexican border, Brooks spends tens of thousands of dollars every year on autopsies for illegal immigrants who die attempting to make the trip through the Texas heat.
Sanders has tried to clarify his comments about white people, saying that “What I meant to say is when you talk about ghetto traditionally, what you’re talking about is African-American communities.”