(August 2006) New poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey indicate that about 13 percent of people nationwide were living in poverty in 2005. However, estimates from the American Community Survey (or ACS, a nationwide annual survey of households conducted by the Census Bureau) show that poverty rates in 2005 varied widely around the country, from less than 8 percent in New Hampshire to 21 percent in Mississippi. The ACS estimates also show that seven states had statistically significant increases in their child poverty rates between 2004 and 2005.

Poverty Rates Remain Steady in Most States

There were 12 states with statistically significant poverty rate increases between 2004 and 2005 (see Table 1). Alaska, South Dakota, and Vermont experienced the biggest jumps in poverty rates since 2004, with increases of at least 2 percentage points each. For the majority of states, the poverty rate essentially remained unchanged, and there was only one state—Washington—with a significant decrease in poverty. The average poverty threshold for a family of four was $19,971 in 2005; for a single individual, it was $9,973.


Table 1
States With Statistically Significant Changes in Poverty Rates, 2004-2005

State
Percent of people in poverty
Change
(2004-2005)*
2004
Estimate
2005
Estimate
Poverty rate increased
Alabama
16.0
17.0
1.0
Alaska
8.2
11.2
3.0
Florida
12.2
12.8
0.6
Indiana
10.8
12.2
1.4
Iowa
9.9
10.9
0.9
Kansas
10.5
11.7
1.1
Massachusetts
9.2
10.3
1.1
Michigan
12.3
13.2
0.9
Missouri
11.8
13.3
1.5
South Dakora
11.0
13.6
2.7
Texas
16.6
17.6
1.0
Vermont
9.0
11.5
2.4
Poverty rate decreased
Washington
13.1
11.9
-1.2

*Statistically significant based on a 90-percent confidence interval.
Note: The ACS surveys in 2004 and 2005 are limited to the household population and exclude the population living in institutions, college dormitories, and other group quarters. Data are based on a sample and are subject to sampling variability.
Source: Population Reference Bureau analysis of the American Community Survey.


Child Poverty Rates Increasing in Many States

The new ACS estimates show that child poverty rates have increased in many parts of the country. Overall, there were seven states with significant increases in child poverty since 2004, and five with significant decreases (see Table 2). Four of the states with increases in child poverty were located in the Midwest—Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Vermont experienced the biggest increase in child poverty from 2004 to 2005, jumping from 12 percent to 15 percent. In Texas, one in every four children lived in poverty in 2005.


Table 2
States With Statistically Significant Changes in Child Poverty Rates, 2004-2005

State
Percent of children under 18 in poverty
Change
(2004-2005)*
2004
Estimate
2005
Estimate
Child poverty rate increased
Alaska
11.2
14.5
3.3
Kansas
12.5
15.1
2.6
Missouri
16.2
19.0
2.8
Nebraska
13.1
14.8
1.8
South Dakota
14.8
18.2
3.4
Texas
22.9
24.9
2.0
Vermont
11.7
15.4
3.7
Child poverty rate decreased
Nevada
18.8
14.9
-3.9
New York
20.7
19.4
-1.3
Utah
13.3
10.9
-2.4
Washington
17.2
15.1
-2.1
Wyoming
14.0
11.1
-2.9

*Statistically significant based on a 90-percent confidence interval.
Note: The ACS surveys in 2004 and 2005 are limited to the household population and exclude the population living in institutions, college dormitories, and other group quarters. Data are based on a sample and are subject to sampling variability.
Source: Population Reference Bureau analysis of the American Community Survey.


Three of the states with significant decreases in child poverty (Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming) were located in the Mountain West region. The child poverty rate decreased the fastest in Nevada, dropping from 19 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2005. In 2005, the national child poverty rate stood at 18 percent.

About the American Community Survey

The American Community Survey is a nationwide annual survey designed to provide communities with reliable and timely demographic, housing, social, and economic data each year. About 3 million households received the 2005 ACS questionnaire, making it the largest U.S. population survey ever conducted outside of the decennial census.

The Current Population Survey provides the official national estimates of income and poverty, but the ACS is a valuable source of information about economic trends for states, local communities, and population subgroups. The 2000 to 2004 ACS surveys provide information for states and geographic areas with 250,000 or more people. The 2005 ACS estimates are available for areas with populations of 65,000 or more. By 2010, pending continued Congressional funding, the Census Bureau will provide annual, five-year averages of ACS data for communities across the country.


Mark Mather is deputy director of PRB’s Domestic Programs.