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Report Number ACSBR/12-01
Alemayehu Bishaw
Component ID: #ti45207505

Introduction

The poverty rate is an economic indicator that measures the percentage of people with income below the poverty threshold. Federal and state governments use these estimates in funding formulas to allocate funds to local communities. Local communities often use these estimates to identify the number of individuals or families eligible for various programs.

This report uses data from the 2000 to 2012 American Community Surveys (ACS) to examine trends in poverty rates for the nation, states, and the District of Columbia.1 The report also analyzes the distribution of people by income-to-poverty ratios for the nation, states, and the District of Columbia over this period. In addition, this report discusses the current poverty rates for metropolitan statistical areas with large populations.

Highlights

  • For the first time since 2007–2008, the ACS poverty rate for the nation did not change between 2011 and 2012.2
  • The number and percentage of people in poverty did not change in 43 states and the District of Columbia between 2011 and 2012.
  • Nationally, between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of people in poverty increased from 12.2 percent to 15.9 percent, while the number of people in poverty increased from 33.3 million to 48.8 million.
  • Both the number and percentage of people in poverty increased in 44 states between 2000 and 2012.
  • The percentage of people in the United States with income below 50 percent of the poverty thresholds grew from 5.0 percent in 2000 to 7.0 percent in 2012. Over this period, the percentage of people with income below 125 percent of the poverty thresholds grew from 16.5 percent to 20.8 percent.
  • Among the largest 25 metropolitan areas, poverty rates in 2012 ranged from 8.4 percent to 19.0 percent.

The estimates contained in this report are based on the 2000 to 2012 ACS. Since 2005, the ACS has been conducted every month with income data collected for the 12 months preceding the interview. Since the survey is continuous, adjacent ACS years have some income reference months in common. Therefore, comparing the 2011 ACS with the 2012 ACS is not an exact comparison of the economic conditions in 2011 with those in 2012 and comparisons should be interpreted with care.3 For more information on the ACS sample design and other topics, visit <www.census.gov/acs/www>.

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1 The data for 2000 were obtained from the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey (C2SS), which was the demonstration stage of the ACS. The C2SS was designed to provide accurate estimates for housing units and the population for the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on a sample of approximately 890,000 housing units. This sample did not include people in group quarters. In this report, the C2SS is referred as the 2000 ACS. For more information on the accuracy of the data see <www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/tech_docs/accuracy/accuracy00_C2SS.pdf>.
2 Following the standard specified by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Statistical Policy Directive 14, data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) are used to estimate the official national poverty rate. For more information, see notes at the end of this report.
3 For a discussion of this and related issues, see Hogan, Howard, “Measuring Population Change Using the American Community Survey,” Applied Demography in the 21st Century, eds. Steven H. Murdock and David A. Swanson, Springer Netherlands, 2008.

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