The American Community Survey (ACS) finds a 2011 child poverty rate of 22.5%. Analysis by the Carsey Institute reveals this is higher than last year and continues to include the youngest children. Of the estimated 16.4 million children living in poverty, 6.1 million are under age six. Overall ACS reports a 2011 poverty rate of 15.9%, a .6% increase from last year, the fourth consecutive increase. Following the release of national 2011 data last week, the Census today released state, county, metro area, and Congressional district data. Both sets of information reveal income, poverty and health insurance coverage, but today’s data is from a different survey and also reveals the nuanced contexts across the country.
Notably, ACS reveals the number and percentage of people in poverty increasing in 17 states and remaining steady in 27. Young adults’ health insurance coverage increased in 37 states and no state experienced a decrease. Mississippi has the lowest median household income at $36,919 while Maryland has the highest at $70,004.
Today’s Census data comes from the annual American Community Survey that asks 3.5 million people about their demographics, family and relationships, income and benefits, education status, work life and more. The Census provides thousands of detailed tables at American FactFinder. In addition, they are releasing a variety of topic briefs over the next couple of months, including three today on income, poverty and health insurance. Additional data releases will follow in late October and early December, covering smaller geographic areas and comparing increasing numbers of years. For a user-friendly, interactive map of today’s poverty data, see Half in Ten.
According to the latest Census data released today, 22% of children are poor and the overall poverty rate remains steady at 15%. Shamefully high, 46.2 million people are in poverty, struggling to meet their basic needs let alone help their families thrive. Many families in poverty are resilient, but for too many it is an intractable barrier to securing health and safety. The report also shows that the Affordable Care Act increased access to health insurance. At the same time, the median household income dropped for the second year in row.
In 2010, 46.3 million people were poor (15.1%), a statistically insignificant change to the 2011 poverty rate of 15%. This Census data derives from the Current Population Survey, a more than 50 year old survey of 100,000 Americans per year. In this survey, poverty is defined this year as a family of four earning less than $23,021. It counts Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but not other government benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Without counting UI, 2.3 million more people would have been poor. With some UI benefits expiring in 2011, this is down from 3.2 million in 2010. Without counting SSI, 21.4 million more people would have been poor. If SNAP benefits were counted, 3.9 million people including 1.7 million children are lifted out of poverty. If EITC were counted, 5.7 million people including 3.1 million children are lifted out of poverty.
Looking at the way calculating these benefits changes the poverty picture, it is clear that government action makes a difference—including the requirements to allow children up to age 26 to stay on their parents insurance and to prevent children with preexisting conditions from being denied coverage, which increased the number of people with insurance. In 2010, 50 million (16.3%) people needed coverage, in 2011 48.6 million (15.7%) people need coverage.
With the overall economy growing while median family income declines, we can and must do more to strengthen our families by sharing our prosperity.
The Census Bureau today introduced research on a new measure of poverty to complement the official measure, which has been in use since the 1960s. The new indicator, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure , estimates that 49.1 million were grappling with very difficult economic circumstances in 2010, compared with 46.6 million under the standard poverty definition. The poverty rate under the supplemental measure is 16 percent, compared with 15.2 percent under the official measure.
Under the supplemental measure, the poverty rate for children declined, from 22 percent to 18.2 percent in 2010, as compared to the official measure. This decline is mostly due to the positive effects of government aid programs, most notably food stamps. The calculation offers a more detailed view of how poor people are getting by. It includes government benefits that aim to help low-income Americans, including subsidized school lunch programs, energy assistance programs, housing subsidies and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps. It also tries to more accurately reflect what people are paying out in expenses such as health care and payroll taxes.
The official measure will continue to be produced every year and be used to assess eligibility for government programs and determine funding distribution. The supplemental poverty measure, on the other hand, is intended to better reflect contemporary social and economic realities and government policy effects and thus provide further understanding of economic conditions and trends.