Fairfax County, Virginia, and McDowell County, West Virginia, are only 350 miles apart. In suburban Washington, D.C., Fairfax County’s median family income is $107,000. That’s five times greater than the median income in rural McDowell County. The stark difference has life and death consequences. Residents of the West Virginia county die years younger. The link between income and longevity was examined at a Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging hearing. “Poverty is a thief,” Michael Reisch of the University of Maryland testified before Sen. Bernie Sanders’ panel. “Poverty not only diminishes a person’s life chances, it steals years from one’s life.”
Another witness at last year’s hearing was Sabrina Shrader, a 30-year-old social worker born and raised in McDowell County. After she shared her personal story at last year’s hearing, Sanders sent two subcommittee investigators to meet with Sabrina this summer in her hometown of Twin Branch.