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New Census Data Underscore Metro Poverty’s Persistence in 2012

Brookings - Elizabeth Kneebone and Jane Williams – “The release of the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) census data on poverty and income underscores the effects of a sluggish recovery that has played out unevenly across the nation’s major metropolitan economies and, even amid improving employment numbers, has left millions of Americans behind. Using ACS data on individuals living below the federal poverty level (e.g., $23,492 for a family of four in 2012), our analysis across and within the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas finds that:

  • For the fifth year in a row since the onset of the Great Recession, the number of poor residents in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas grew between 2011 and 2012, edging upward by 1.1 percent or 320,000 people. Though the smallest year over year change since the recession began, the increase in the metropolitan poor population diverged from the national trend, which remained flat from 2011 to 2012.
  • The 2012 poverty rate for major metro areas stalled at 15.1 percent, matching the post-recession high in 2011. Most large metro areas (84) saw their poverty rates stuck at 2011 levels. However, poverty rates continued to climb in nine regions, led by Jackson, Knoxville, Fresno, and Grand Rapids (Table 1). These poverty rate increases occurred even though unemployment rates fell in eight of the nine metro areas on this list. At the same time, poverty rates fell in seven regions, with the biggest decreases in Modesto, McAllen, and Albuquerque.”

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