Spotlight Exclusives

Tip of the Recession Brings Poverty Growth in 22 States and D.C.

Posted on

The American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census on September 29 tells the story of a nation with a poverty rate that reached 13.2 percent in 2008. It also reveals that poverty increased in 22 states and Washington, D. C. While there is a clear and real concern for those jurisdictions, we shouldn۪t ignore the 28 states where poverty rates didn۪t rise. It۪s not that those 28 states are without poverty; indeed, the only thing they don۪t have is a growth in povertyat least not one that showed up in this window of census data. Maybe you are from one of those 28 states and had your ACS op ed written and ready to submit but it landed in the can instead because the state data was the “same old same old.”

This is not to suggest that there۪s anything wrong with disaggregating national data. Indeed, disaggregation helps to give a richer picture. For example, with CLASP۪s DataFinder you can readily see ACS state differences on a range of poverty variables (AND you can play them against such factors as TANF participation/Head Start enrollment). The recent ACS reveals, for example, a national child poverty rate of 18.2 percent, ranging from 30 percent in Mississippi to 9 percent in New Hampshire. The extreme child poverty rate in the nation is 7.8 percent for children, ranging from 17.7 percent in the District of Columbia to 4.2 percent in New Hampshire. And as the Carsey Institute۪s ACS report finds, there were significant changes in poverty rates among children under 6 in 2008:

· Estimated young child poverty in the rural Midwest was 22.8 percent, significantly higher than in 2007 (21.0 percent).
· The poverty rate for young children in Northeastern central cities fell by 0.7 percentage point to 27.6 percent. However, Northeastern central cities continue to have higher young child poverty rates than Northeastern rural and suburban places.
· Young children in the rural South remain the most likely to be poor. Nearly one-third of young children in the rural South are poor.
· Estimates suggest more than one in five American children under age six was in poverty in 2008.
· In no urban, suburban, or rural regional breakdowns did the number of young children in poverty decline since 2007, and some areas saw increases in the number of children under age six living in poverty.

In the 28 states that are not-doing-worse it۪s challenging to get newspaper editorial boards to see that there is a “new story” to tell today. Disaggregation that shows differences in regions within a state (e.g. changes by congressional district) can help make the sell. Of course, the 2008 state data reflects just the tip of the recession. Experts project that by 2011 or 2012 the long jobless recovery will result in a poverty rate that climbs above 14 percent. The pool of not-doing-worse states will certainly shrink. In fact, any state left standing without an increase in poverty will, no doubt, grab headlines in 2011. That۪s the good news?

Posted by Jodie


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn۪t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and its impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

« Back to Spotlight Exclusives