|1. Fayette County was already struggling. Now the pandemic could break it | Mark O’Keefe
From the late 1890s until the early 1950s, Fayette County, which sits deep in the heart of southwestern Pennsylvania, was at the center of the nation’s coal and coke industries.
Stretching from about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh to the West Virginia border, the county’s population grew from 55,842 people in 1880 to 188,104 by 1920.
Its population peaked at 200,000, but with the coal and coke industries’ demise, people left the county in droves, and its economy never recovered.
The county’s population dropped to an estimated 129,274 last year, declining 40,000 or almost 25 percent since 1960. The last time the county had so few people was somewhere around 1905.
Meanwhile, the number of poor people in the county has risen over the years. According to the 2010 Census Bureau, the county was second to last among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in per capita income, household median income, and family median income.