Recently, a Your View opinion piece, “Housing and poverty in Boone” (Aug. 7), suggested that the Boone economy offers an illusion of prosperity propped up by the toils of its workers. Although the importance of reducing poverty, expanding a stock of affordable housing and making more widely available the necessities of life cannot be overstated, unfortunately the state of Boone’s economy has been mistakenly portrayed as a dystopia using misleading statistics.
The writer suggested the median age of Boone’s non-student population to be 21 years with a median household income of $17,424, a poverty rate of 60 percent, and a home-ownership rate of 21 percent. To individuals who regularly explore these kinds of statistics, the writer’s numbers are obviously mistaken on their face (the median age of the non-student population is that of a typical student?).
Using the same data source the writer consulted, Data USA (datausa.io/profile/geo/boone-nc?compare=boone-nc-micro-area), one sees the mistake: Data USA has two Boones! One is the town, which clearly suffers from an over-sampling of students in the data (censusreporter.org allows a deeper dive: 77 percent are under 30 and 87 percent are single), and the other is Watauga County (49 percent under 30 and 59 percent single). If one wants to get a sense of what it is like to live in the Boone area as a non-student, the Watauga County data is far superior (though it too contains students).
Here, we see Watauga has a median age of 31 with a median household income of $41,541, a poverty rate of 28.3 percent (remember, still including students, many of whom are unemployed or employed part-time), and a home-ownership rate of 59 percent. That is, contrary to the writer’s portrayal, the Boone area is not ground zero for the merciless oppression of the proletariat.
I do not mean to suggest that the town should neglect its student residents when considering the state of the Boone economy.
Although students are often transient, their concerns are important while they live here, and some become long-time residents. But we should inform these conversations with appropriate data, and in this case that means not over-sampling students.
I hope I have corrected some of the misinformation of the previous letter, and I encourage those who want to be informed to conduct their own independent research, while also thinking critically about what they find.
— By Daniel Villanova