Housing Complex

There Are A Lot Of Poor People In These Parts

The headlines after yesterday's American Community Survey release of new numbers talked about declining incomes in the D.C. area's wealthier areas. But the more striking stats, fully enumerated by Kathryn Baer, have to do with dirt poor people in the District itself: The poverty rate is 19.2 percent, up 0.8 percent from 2009. The child poverty rate is 30.4 percent, up 7.7 percent over 2007. All of those numbers are higher than poverty rates in metropolitan areas nationally, which increased across the board.

The other shocking element, of course, is the inequality within the income numbers—especially around race. Black household median income is $37,430, as compared to the average of $60,903.

Interestingly, though, looking at American Community Survey numbers from 2009, incomes have actually improved over the last decade. The poverty rate for families was 16.7 percent in 1999, and declined to 14.6 percent in 2009. For individuals, it was 20.2 percent, and declined to 18.4 percent in 2009. Which may be due in part to the fact the increase in the number of wealthy people rather than a decrease in the absolute number of poor people.

  • http://povertyandpolicy.wordpress.com Kathryn Baer

    You've made an interesting observation about the family poverty rate. So I thought I'd take a closer look.

    The rate you cite is for all families, with and without children. It went down in 2010 to 14.1%. The rate for families with children was considerably higher (22.5%). However, this rate too is somewhat lower (1.9%) than in 2009.

    I think these figures tend to confirm your hypothesis about wealthier families moving into the District. Another point in its favor: The D.C. median household income for 2010 is strikingly high.

    By way of clarification, the individual rates are for all residents. So they include adults and children in poor families as well as people with other living arrangements.

  • washcycle

    You can't really compare the poverty rate over time. We used to help the poor with TANF payments and those were considered as part of your income, but since then we've switched to free medical care, housing vouchers and food stamps which are not counted as income. So what we do to help the poor used to be counted as income, but now it is not. So it's apples to oranges.