Poverty by the Numbers

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Fall 2013

U.S. Census Bureau Releases Nation-Wide Poverty Numbers

Here are some quick first impressions from the new poverty data out today:

1. The Poverty Rate and Median Household Income for most age groups and races is unchanged from last year, still hovering far from 2007 levels.

Real median household income in 2012 did not significantly change from 2011. Nationally, medium household income was 8.3% lower than in 2007.

Neither the poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty changed to a degree that reached statistical significance. The 2012 level remains 2.5 percentage points higher than the poverty level in 2007. Looking more closely, the number of people living in poverty within age and race groups remained the same, except for people 65 and older, people living in the South, and people living outside metropolitan statistical areas. For these groups, the number of people in poverty incraseed.

2. Some populations are still suffering under extraordinarily high poverty rates, including children, African Americans, Latinos and people with disabilities.

The 2012 poverty rate for children under age 18 was 21.8%, or 16.1 million. The rate for children under age 6 was 24.4%, or 5.8 million children in the United States. Of children under age 6 in families with a female head of household, 56% lived in poverty.

For African Americans, the poverty rate was 27.2% last year. Among Hispanics the 2012 poverty rate was 25.6%. For White non-Hispanics, the number was 9.8%.

People aged 18 to 64 with a disability had a poverty rate of 28.4%, more than double the rate of their age group without disabilities (12.5%).

3. Inequality is Growing

The uneven recovery - due in part to uneven job loss, and the replacement of lost jobs with low-wage work - is showing up in the poverty rate numbers. In 1967, 18.2% of Americans had an income that was over 4 times greater than the Federal Poverty Level. That number has steadily grown to 35.7% in 2012.

The percentage of people living below the FPL has increased, too. In 1967, 14.2% had an income below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level. In 2012 that number is 15%.

4. Anti-Poverty Programs are working

The official poverty estimate counts some forms of government benefits (cash benefits, like Social Security benefits and unemployment insurance benefits) but not others (SNAP, EITC). The Census Bureau tracks how much of each person’s income comes from these benefits. The benefit to us is that we can see how each of these programs potentially affects the poverty rate. For 2012:

  • If Social Security payments were excluded from income, 15.3 million more people over age 65 would have been classified as living in poverty.
  • If unemployment benefits were excluded, 1.7 million more people would have been classified as living in poverty.
  • If SNAP benefits were counted as income, 4 million fewer people would have fallen under the poverty line last year
  • If the value of the Earned Income Tax Credit were counted as income, the number of children classified as living in poverty would be reduced by 3.1 million.

Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, U.S. Census Bureau, Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, Jessica C. Smith. Issued September 2013. Available at http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p60-245.pdf.

Summer 2013

Summer extern Sharon Lin recently researched how the economy is disparately impacting the employment prospects of particular groups, namely: racial minorities and young people. Sharon has provided the summary of her research below.

Racial Disparities in Unemployment

The Economic Policy Institute reports on joblessness in North Carolina through the recession (from December 2008 until June 2009) and the ongoing recovery through the fourth quarter of 2012:

  • In North Carolina, three groups (all workers in NC, white workers, and African American workers) have higher unemployment rates than the national rate for the same groups.
  • The unemployment rate of African Americans in North Carolina is 17.3%, more than two and a half times that of whites (6.7%), and has been close to or more than twice the white rate for much of the last three years.
  • Of the 24 states with large enough African American populations to track with quarterly CPS unemployment data, North Carolina has the fourth-highest African American unemployment rate.
  • North Carolina has the second highest rate of manufacturing job loss since 1995. Many Black and Hispanic workers live and work in communities with declining industries which have been the slowest to recover from the recession.
  • In conclusion, North Carolina is slowly recovering from the recent recession. Despite the reduction in overall unemployment, roughly one in six African American workers in North Carolina continues to be unemployed.

Youth Face High Unemployment

The Economic Policy Institute also has surveyed how the economic crisis has impacted employment prospects for young people across the country as well as specifically in North Carolina.

  • In 2012, the overall unemployment rate averages 8.1% and the unemployment rate of workers under age 25 at 16.2% was exactly twice as high.
  • In 2012, North Carolina's overall unemployment rate was 9.2% while the unemployment rate of workers under age 25 was 18.8%.
  • Current unemployment and underemployment rates for young people nationally (both those who have graduated from high school and those who have graduated from college) are worse than 2007 rates.

Spring 2013

The latest 2011 American Community Survey was released in the fall of 2012. For poor people in our state, the numbers don't suggest much improvement in any area.

US Poverty Rate

  • All: 15.2%*
  • Below 150% of poverty: 24.7%

Poverty by Race in North Carolina

  • All: 17.2%*
  • White: 12.9%
  • African American: 27.1%
  • Hispanic: 34.2%
  • Native American: 29.8%
  • Asian: 13.8%

Child Poverty in North Carolina

  • All under 18: 24.3%*
  • Deep poverty: 7.6%
  • Families with female-headed household with children under 18: 43.1%

Poverty by Educational Attainment in North Carolina

  • No high school diploma: 30.1%*
  • High school diploma: 14.7%
  • Some college or associate degree: 10.9%
  • Bachelor degree or higher: 3.9%

*Data obtained from 2009-2011 American Community Survey, 3-Year Estimates, released October 25, 2012

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