MCDC News and Updates

Census Report

Poverty Rate Declines, Number of Poor Unchanged

The nation’s poverty rate was 15.5% in 2013, down from 16.0% in 2012, according to the supplemental poverty measure released October 16 by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2013 rate was higher than the official measure of 14.5%, but similarly declined from the corresponding rate in 2012.

Meanwhile, 48.7 million were below the poverty line in 2013 — not statistically different from the number in 2012. In 2013, 45.3 million were poor, using the official definition released in Sept. 2014 in Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013.

These findings are contained in the Census Bureau report The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2013, released with support from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and describing research showing different ways of measuring poverty in the United States.

The supplemental poverty measure is an effort to take into account many of the government programs designed to assist low-income families and individuals that were not included in the current official poverty measure, released Sept. 16.

While the official poverty measure includes only pretax money income, the supplemental measure adds the value of in-kind benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school lunches, housing assistance, and refundable tax credits. Additionally, the supplemental poverty measure deducts necessary expenses for critical goods and services from income. Expenses that are deducted include taxes, child care and commuting expenses, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and child support paid to another household.

Estimates for States

The differences between the official and supplemental poverty measures varied considerably by state. The supplemental rates were higher than the official statewide poverty rates in the District of Columbia and 13 states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.

For another 26 states, supplemental rates were lower than the official statewide poverty rates. The states were Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Rates in the remaining 11 states were not statistically different using the two measures.

For more information about the supplemental poverty measure and how it differs from the official measure, see the U.S. Census Bureau’s blog post about this release.

New American Community Survey Data Released for 2013

The 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), released today in its one-year version, provides a multitude of statistics that measure the social, economic and housing conditions of U.S. states, counties, and communities. More than 40 topics are available with today’s release, such as educational attainment, housing, employment, commuting, language spoken at home, nativity, ancestry and selected monthly homeowner costs.

The ACS gives communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Retailers, homebuilders, police departments, and town and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision makers who count on these annual results.

“The American Community Survey is our country’s only source of small area estimates for social and demographic characteristics,” Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. “As such, it is indispensable to our economic competitiveness and used by businesses, local governments and anyone in need of trusted, timely, detailed data.”

Also released today are two reports providing analysis on income and poverty for states and large metropolitan areas. The ACS three- and five-year data for 2013 will be released in October and December of this year, respectively.

Following are some highlights of the new ACS 2013 one-year release and related reports.

Income

  • For 2013, median household incomes were lower than the U.S. median ($52,250) in 28 states and higher in 19 states and D.C. (Three states did not have a statistically significant difference from the U.S. as a whole.)
  • In 2013, the states with the highest median household incomes were Maryland ($72,483) and Alaska ($72,237). Mississippi had the lowest ($37,963).
  • Median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas was highest in the Washington, D.C. ($90,149), San Francisco ($79,624), and Boston ($72,907) metro areas.

Income Inequality

Household Income: 2013 examined the Gini index for states and large metro areas. The Gini index is a summary measure of income inequality, ranging from 0 (complete equality) to 1 (complete inequality). Among the findings:

  • Five states and D.C. had Gini indexes higher than the U.S. index of .481; 36 states had lower Gini indexes than the U.S.
  • The Gini index of 15 states increased from 2012 to 2013. Alaska was the only state to have a decrease. All other states saw no significant change.
  • The highest Gini index was in the District of Columbia (0.532). Alaska’s (0.408) was among the lowest.

Poverty

  • Two states — New Hampshire and Wyoming — saw a decline in both the number and percentage of people in poverty. New Hampshire’s poverty rate declined from 10% in 2012 to 8.7% in 2013. Wyoming’s rate declined from 12.6% to 10.9%.
  • Three states saw increases in both the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2012 and 2013. New Jersey’s poverty rate increased from 10.8% in 2012 to 11.4% in 2013; New Mexico increased from 20.8% to 21.9%, and Washington increased from 13.5% to 14.1%.
  • In 2013, Mississippi had the highest poverty rate among states (24%), followed by New Mexico (21.9%). Both states also had the highest percentage of the population below 125% of the poverty level: 30.3% in Mississippi and 28.3% in New Mexico. About one in 10 people in both states had incomes less than 50% of the poverty level.
  • Among large metropolitan areas, one of the lowest proportions of people with incomes less than 50% of the poverty level in 2013 was 4.2% in the Washington, D.C., metro area, while one of the highest proportions was 8.4% in the Phoenix metro area.

Health Insurance

  • Between 2012 and 2013, 13 states and Puerto Rico saw a statistically significant increase in the percentage of civilians covered by health insurance. Two states (Maine and New Jersey) saw a decrease.
  • Among people whose incomes were below 138% of the poverty threshold, 25.6% were uninsured in 2013. (Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of expanding Medicaid eligibility to those with incomes at or below 138% of the poverty threshold.) Among people whose incomes were at or above 200% of the poverty threshold, 9.2% were uninsured in 2013.
  • Among the top 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, the uninsured rates were highest in Miami (24.8%), Houston (22.8%), and Dallas (21.5%) and lowest in Boston (4.2%), Pittsburgh (7.5%), Minneapolis (8.1%), and Baltimore (8.7%).
  • Among the top 25 large metropolitan areas, Tampa, Detroit, and Riverside, Calif., had public coverage rates of 33% or higher.

Computer and Internet Access

The 2013 American Community Survey included new questions to produce statistics on computer and Internet access. Mandated by the 2008 Broadband Data Improvement Act, the data will help the Federal Communications Commission measure broadband access nationwide. The data will also help identify communities eligible for available grants to expand access.

Some findings: 83.8% of the nation’s households have a computer (either desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone). 74.4% have some form of Internet access at home. The Census Bureau is releasing a more detailed report on the new findings in early October.

Census Report

Gap Between Higher- and Lower-Wealth Households Widens

Median net worth increased between 2000 and 2011 for households in the top two quintiles of the net worth distribution — the wealthiest 40% of households — while declining for those in the lower three quintiles, according to statistics released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau. (Each quintile represents 20%, or one fifth, of all households.) The result: A widening wealth gap between those at the top and those in the middle and bottom of the net worth distribution.

Median household net worth by quintile, 2000-2011

According to the report, Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011, median household net worth decreased by $5,124 for households in the lowest-net-worth quintile and increased by $61,379 (10.8%) for those in the highest quintile. Median net worth of households in the highest quintile was 39.8 times higher than the second lowest quintile in 2000, and it rose to 86.8 times higher in 2011.

The report also details a widening of the wealth gap for households sharing the same demographic characteristics, such as age, race and Hispanic origin, and educational attainment of the householder. For example, the median net worth for non-Hispanic whites in the highest quintile was 21.8 times higher than for those in the second-lowest quintile in 2000; in 2011, this had increased to 31.5 times higher. For blacks, the ratio increased from 139.9 to 328.1, and for Hispanics, the increase was from 158.4 to 220.9.

Between 2000 and 2011, the wealth gap has also widened between groups with different demographic characteristics. For example, the ratio of median net worth of non-Hispanic whites to that of blacks rose from 10.6 to 17.5 between 2000 and 2011, and the ratio of non-Hispanic whites to Hispanics also increased from 8.1 to 14.4.

“However, when looking at the highest quintile for these groups, we see that blacks experienced higher relative increases in median net worth than non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics,” Census Bureau economist Marina Vornovitsky said. For blacks in the highest quintile, median net worth increased by 62.8%, to $229,041; for Hispanics in the highest quintile, it increased by 17.9% to $250,462, and for non-Hispanic whites in the highest quintile, it rose by 11.9% to $754,244.

The Distribution of Household Net Worth and Debt in the U.S. detailed table packages were released for 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011, the years for which data were collected.

ACS Report

One Quarter of U.S. Residents Live in Poverty Areas

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) shows that one in four U.S. residents now live in poverty areas — up from fewer than one in five in 2000.

A “poverty area” is defined as any census tract with a poverty rate of 20% or more.

The number of people living in poverty areas increased from 49.5 million (18.0%) in 2000 to 77.4 million (25.7%) in 2008-2012. The overall U.S. poverty rate was 14.9% for the same period.

Percent living in poverty areas by state, 2010

By state, the percentage of people living in a poverty area ranged from 6.8% in New Hampshire to 48.5% in Mississippi. Several states saw declines over the period: District of Columbia (-6.7%), Louisiana (-3.6%), West Virginia (-2.3%), Alaska (-0.4%), Hawaii (-1.0%), and Alaska (-0.4%). On the other hand, North Carolina (17.9%), Oregon (16.0%), Tennessee (16.0%), Arkansas (15.7%), and Georgia (14.6%) had the largest increases in the proportion of people living in poverty areas.

More than half of people living in poverty lived in a poverty area, and about 30% of people living in poverty areas had incomes below the poverty level.

The report, Changes in Areas with Concentrated Poverty: 2000 to 2010, uses data from the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 ACS five-year estimates to analyze changes in the spatial distribution and socioeconomic characteristics of people living in poverty areas.

According to the report’s author, Alemayehu Bishaw of the Census Bureau’s Poverty Statistics Branch: “Researchers have found that living in poor neighborhoods adds burdens to low-income families, such as poor housing conditions and fewer job opportunities. Many federal and local government agencies use the Census Bureau’s definition of poverty areas to provide much-needed resources to communities with a large concentration of people in poverty.”

People living in poverty areas by county, 2010

Other highlights of the report:

  • Missouri’s percentage of people living in poverty areas (24.9%) is just slightly lower than the national rate and represents a change of 9.9% over the period.
  • In the 2008-2012 period, in 14 states and D.C., 30% or more of the population lived in poverty areas. In 2000, this was true of four states and D.C.
  • Of the people living in poverty areas in the 2008-2012 period, 51.1% lived in central cities of metro areas, 28.6% in suburbs and 20.4% outside metro areas.
  • Many of the counties with 80% or more of the population living in poverty areas were clustered in and around American Indian reservations (in New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota, and North Dakota) or in the Mississippi Delta region (including portions of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas).
  • About 38% of all families headed by a female householder with no husband present lived in a poverty area — the largest proportion among all family types.
  • Blacks, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and those in the “some other race” category were the race groups most likely to live in poverty areas, at 50.4%, 47.8%, and 48.3%, respectively. Whites, however, experienced the largest increase in the proportion living in poverty areas, from 11.3% in 2000 to 20.3% in 2008-2012.
  • Employed people saw a larger increase (8.0%) than the unemployed (3.4%) in people living in poverty areas over this period.
  • The Midwest region experienced the largest increase over the period (9.8%).