Pullman's League of Women Voters lead two-year poverty study

PULLMAN, WA - Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show Whitman County's poverty rates are more than double the state's overall poverty level, and members of the local League of Women Voters want to find out why.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why the local organization is gearing up for a two-year poverty study.

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau,nearly a third of Whitman County's population is living below the poverty level. That's significantly higher than Washington State's level, which is at roughly 13%.

"That surprised us very much because Whitman County is also considered one of the healthiest in terms of health care services," said League of Women Voters Poverty Study Committee member Karen Kiessling. "As well as one of those with the highest education rate."

Pullman's League of Women Voters recently decided to investigate poverty in Whitman County. Former Mayor of Pullman Karen Kiessling is one of the league members that's leading the two-year study.

"We don't have any agenda," said Kiessling. "We're not lobbying for or against anything at this point, we want information and we're non-partisan."

Kiessling said a team of volunteers will look at statistics like age, gender, occupation, disabilities, and any other numbers that will help them understand the county's population, then they'll come up with answers about the county's needs. She said it'll be similar to the Latah County Poverty study that the Moscow League of Women Voters completed in 2012.

"Our plan is to do it by communities, and then by the rural areas around them," said Kiessling.

It's a big project, but Kiessling said once it's completed in the spring of 2016, organizations should be able to use the findings to write grants that can ultimately help struggling families in the county.

"Because you can't do it on the basis of 'This is what I think, this is what I feel,' it has to be, 'This is what I know, and here's how I know it," said Kiessling.

If you'd like to volunteer to help the league with the study, contact league member Mary Collins at