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Persistence of poverty varies across the U.S.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An important dimension of poverty is time—an area that has a high level of poverty this year, but not next year, is likely better off than an area that has a high level of poverty in both years. To shed light on this aspect of poverty, ERS has defined counties as being persistently poor if 20 percent or more of their populations were living in poverty over the last 30 years (measured by the 1980, 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses and 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-year estimates). Using this definition, there are currently 353 persistently poor counties in the United States, comprising 11.2 percent of all U.S. counties. The large majority (301, or 85.3 percent) of the persistent-poverty counties are nonmetro, accounting for 15.2 percent of all nonmetro counties. Persistent poverty also demonstrates a strong regional pattern, with nearly 84 percent of persistent-poverty counties in the South, comprising more than 20 percent of all counties in the region. This map is found in Geography of Poverty, in the Rural Poverty and Well-being topic page on the ERS website, updated September 2013.

Employment growth in nonmetro micropolitan and noncore counties has lagged growth in metro counties since 2010

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Metropolitan (metro) counties have fared better than both micropolitan and noncore counties (shown in the map) following the 2007-09 recession. ERS researchers generally define “rural” as micropolitan and noncore counties (together referred to as nonmetropolitan or nonmetro counties), and “urban” as metropolitan or metro counties. During the National economic recovery period between 2010 and 2012, employment increased by 2.5 percent in metro counties, compared with 1.1 percent in micropolitan, and 0.5 percent in noncore counties. Metro counties are densely settled counties with an urban core population of 50,000 or more, and outlying counties tied to the central core by labor force commuting. Micropolitan counties are similar to metro counties, but include an urban core with a population between 10,000 to 49,999, and outlying counties tied to the core by commuting. Noncore areas are the remaining counties that are neither metro nor micropolitan. As of February 2013, the Office of Management and Budget identified 1,167 metro counties, 641 micropolitan counties, and 1,335 noncore counties. This map is found in the ERS topic page on Rural Classifications, updated in May 2013.

Nonmetro poverty at its highest in more than 25 years

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nonmetro areas have had a higher rate of poverty than metro areas since the 1960s, when poverty rates were first officially recorded. Over time, the difference between nonmetro and metro poverty rates has fluctuated, falling from an average difference of 4.5 percentage points in the 1980s to a record low of 1.6 percentage points in 2010, as the metro poverty rate rose faster than the nonmetro rate over 2006-10. Because of the uneven economic recovery following the 2007-09 economic recession, nonmetro poverty rose slightly in 2011 (to 17.0 percent) and again in 2012 (to 17.7 percent), while the poverty rate fell slightly in metro areas. As a result, the nonmetro poverty rate is at its highest level since 1986 and is now 3.2 percentage points higher than the metro poverty rate. This chart is an updated version of one found in the Rural Poverty and Well-Being topic page on the ERS website.

The percent of rural households with Internet at home varies across the Nation

Monday, July 29, 2013

By 2010, 73 percent of U.S. urban households had home subscriptions to the Internet, compared with only 62 percent of rural households and farms, according to Current Population Survey (CPS) data. Rural Internet usage, however, is not uniform across the country. On average, rural households in the Northeast and West are more likely to have some form of inhome access to the Internet, while households in the rural South are the least likely to subscribe. The regional disparity in subscriber rates reflects, to some degree, demographic differences such as income, education, and age. Among rural households that use the Internet, broadband adoption rates (not shown here) are lowest in Appalachia and in several areas—such as Michigan and South Carolina—that experienced the highest unemployment rates during the Great Recession of 2007-09. Rural broadband adoption rates are uniformly below corresponding statewide urban rates. This map is found in the ERS report, Rural Broadband At A Glance, 2013 Edition, June 2013.

Rural educational attainment has been rising

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Historically, rural (nonmetro) areas in the United States have lagged metro areas in educational attainment, but nonmetro areas are catching up over time. In the decade following the 2000 Census, the percentage of the rural population with less than a high school education dropped significantly, and is now only slightly higher than in urban areas. Meanwhile, high school completion, college attendance, and college completion rates in nonmetro areas all rose during the 2000s. However, nonmetro areas still face a large gap compared with metro areas in the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher—17.4 percent versus 30.2 percent in 2007-11. At least part of this gap reflects the higher pay that highly educated workers often can earn in metropolitan labor markets. This chart updates one found in the Rural Employment and Education topic page.

Persistent-poverty counties are mostly nonmetro, generally Southern

Friday, July 19, 2013

An important dimension of poverty is time. An area that has a high level of poverty this year, but not next year, is likely better off than an area that has a high level of poverty in both years. To shed light on this aspect of poverty, ERS has defined counties as being persistently poor if 20 percent or more of their populations were living in poverty over the last 30 years (measured by the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses and the 2007-11 American Community Survey). Using this definition, there were 353 persistently poor counties in the United States. The large majority (301) of the persistent-poverty counties were nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) and exhibited a strong regional pattern. There are no nonmetro persistent-poverty counties in the Northeast, 29 nonmetro persistent-poverty counties in the Midwest, and 20 in the West. The remaining 252 nonmetro persistent-poverty counties are in the South, comprising just over 26 percent of the total Southern nonmetro population. This map is one of the county classifications found in the Atlas of Rural and Small Town America on the ERS website.

Rural veterans tended to have higher median household incomes than nonveterans in 2007-11

Friday, May 24, 2013

Perhaps because veterans tend to be older males, or because of the skills, experiences, and contacts acquired during military service, rural veterans had median incomes that were nearly 50 percent higher than rural nonveterans, based on 2007-11 data. Median incomes of veterans were at least twice those of nonveterans (income ratio of 1:2 or greater) in 79 rural counties, predominantly in the South and in high-poverty areas. Rural veteran income premiums tended to be high in counties dependent on public sector employment, whereas the incomes of rural veterans tended to be about average in manufacturing-dependent counties. There were also a handful of counties (54 or 2.7 percent of nonmetro counties) where rural veterans tended to earn less than nonveterans (income ratio less than 1:1). They were primarily farming-dependent counties where poverty rates tend to be low. This map is based on data found in the Atlas of Rural and Small Town America, on the ERS website.

A growing number of families receive the earned income tax credit

Friday, May 10, 2013

The earned income tax credit (EITC) was enacted in 1975 to reduce the burden of Social Security taxes on low-income workers and to encourage them to seek employment rather than welfare benefits. The amount of the credit depends upon the number of qualifying children in the household and the level of earned and adjusted gross income. As a refundable tax credit, the EITC results in lower tax liabilities for qualifying low-income households that owe Federal income taxes and cash payments to those owing no taxes. The EITC has expanded over the past two decades and represents an increasing share of total Federal support to low-income households. In 2009, the credit provided roughly $55 billion to over 25 million low-income workers and their families. Rural households have historically had lower incomes and higher poverty rates than urban households. As a result, a disproportionately large share of rural taxpayers benefit from the EITC. In 2008, 21.6 percent of rural taxpayers received EITC benefits, compared with 16.9 percent of urban taxpayers. This chart comes from the ERS report, The Potential Impact of Tax Reform on Farm Businesses and Rural Households, EIB-107, February 2013.

Slow economic recovery pushes nonmetro poverty slightly higher in 2011

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nonmetro areas have had a higher rate of poverty than metro areas since the 1960s when poverty rates were first officially recorded. Over time, however, the difference between nonmetro and metro poverty rates has generally narrowed, falling from an average difference of 4.5 percentage points in the 1980s to a record low of 1.6 percentage points in 2010, as the metro poverty rate rose faster than the nonmetro rate over 2006-10. Because of the uneven economic recovery following the 2007-09 economic recession, nonmetro poverty rose slightly in 2011, to 17 percent, while the poverty rate fell slightly in metro areas. As a result, the nonmetro poverty rate is now 2.4 percentage points higher than the metro poverty rate. This chart is found in the Rural Poverty and Well-Being topic page on the ERS website, updated March 2013.

Medical benefits are largest source of government transfers in nonmetro and metro areas

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Medical benefits are the single largest transfer payment category in both nonmetro and metro areas. In 1978, medical benefits accounted for 18.9 percent of all nonmetro transfer payments (the second largest category) and by 2011 these had risen to 41.7 percent (the largest category) of all nonmetro transfer payments. Similarly, in metro areas, medical benefits increased from 22.7 percent of all transfer payments in 1978 to 42.1 percent of payments in 2011. Overall, between 1978 and 2011, nonmetro transfer payments for medical benefits increased 581.5 percent, compared with 498.9 percent in metro areas. Some of the increase in transfer payments for medical benefits can be attributed to legislation expanding health insurance to children in working families through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). However, the rising cost of health care, which has far outpaced the overall rate of inflation, is a major source of this increase. This chart is from the Rural Poverty & Well-Being topic page on the ERS website, updated November 2012.

Nonmetro high poverty areas are regionally concentrated

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nonmetro high-poverty areas—counties with a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher—tend to be clustered into groups of contiguous counties that reflect distinct regional concentrations. High levels of nonmetro poverty are pervasive in the South, particularly in the Cotton Belt, Southern Appalachia, the Rio Grande, and the Mississippi Delta. Poverty rates are typically highest at the cores of these high-poverty clusters and then taper off gradually toward the edges. There were 193 nonmetro counties newly defined as high poverty in 2006-10. Most of the new nonmetro high-poverty counties are adjacent to previously existing high-poverty clusters. Findings also reveal an emerging nonmetro high-poverty region in the Pacific Northwest and a more dispersed pattern of new high-poverty counties elsewhere in the West and the Midwest. This suggests that not only has the incidence of concentrated nonmetro poverty increased over the last decade but that it has also become more widespread. This map is found in the December 2012 Amber Waves magazine.

Transfer payments to residents in nonmetro areas outpace payments to metro residents

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Government transfer payments comprise a large share of personal income for both nonmetro and metro residents. In 2011, transfer payments to individuals accounted for 24.8 percent of total personal income in nonmetro areas and 16.3 percent in metro areas. Per capita in 2011, nonmetro residents received more government transfers than metro residents: $8,236 vs. $7,022. Since 1978, nonmetro per capita transfer payments (adjusted for inflation) have risen faster than payments in metro areas. Most of this increase comes from the rising cost of government programs that provide medical benefits, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Because nonmetro areas have an older population and a higher proportion of persons with disabilities than metro areas, nonmetro areas receive more transfer payments. Between 2010 and 2011, per capita transfer payments fell, primarily due to a decline in unemployment insurance compensation, which fell 25 percent in both metro and nonmetro areas as benefits expired. This chart is found in the Rural Poverty & Well-being topic page on the ERS website, updated November 2012.

Share of income from government transfer payments varies by region

Friday, November 16, 2012

Government transfer payments (such as medical benefits, retirement and disability insurance, and nutrition assistance programs) comprise a large share of personal income for both nonmetro and metro residents. Transfer payments to individuals accounted for 25.6 percent of total nonmetro personal income and 16.8 percent of metro personal income, in 2010. Of the $2.2 trillion in Federal, State, and local government personal transfer payments to individuals in 2010, $415 billion went to nonmetro residents and $1.8 trillion went to metro residents. The counties with the highest percentage of total income from government transfer payments in 2010 were concentrated in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. The top three nonmetro counties with the highest percentage of total income from government transfer payments were located in eastern coal fields of Kentucky. These counties have high levels of disability payments along with very high unemployment and poverty rates. This chart is from the Rural Poverty & Well-Being topic page on the ERS website.

Increases in the U.S. poverty rate were highest in the manufacturing areas of the Midwest and South

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nationally, the share of Americans living below the poverty threshold increased from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 13.8 percent in 2006-10. But in nearly one-quarter (762) of U.S. counties, the poverty rate increased by 30 percent or more, while another 878 counties saw no change or experienced declining poverty. Of the counties that had increases of 30 percent or more, 58 percent were in rural areas. Increases in the poverty rate were often highest in regions that suffered the largest increases in unemployment rates during the 2007-09 recession. Many were manufacturing-dependent counties located in the Great Lakes and Southern Highland regions. This chart appeared in the June 2012 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

A growing number of families have received the earned income tax credit since its creation

Monday, July 9, 2012

The earned income tax credit (EITC) was enacted in 1975 to reduce the burden of Social Security taxes on low-income workers and to encourage them to seek employment rather than welfare benefits. The amount of the credit depends upon the number of qualifying children in the household and the level of earned and adjusted gross income. Originally, the credit was limited to a maximum of $400 per year for a qualifying household, but subsequent legislation expanded the basic credit and provided larger credits for families with two or more children. In 2008, the EITC provided an estimated $51.5 billion to nearly 25 million low-income workers and their families, for an average of $2,063 per recipient. Since rural households have historically had higher poverty rates than urban households, rural taxpayers benefit disproportionately from programs targeting low-income workers, such as the EITC. This chart appeared in "Rural America Benefits from Expanded Use of the Federal Tax Code for Income Support" in the June 2011 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Gap in nonfarm earnings for metro and nonmetro counties remains wide but has narrowed slightly

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Real nonfarm earnings per job were essentially unchanged in 2009. Nonfarm earnings make up 96 percent of total farm and nonfarm earnings (from wages, salaries, and self-employment) in nonmetro counties and fully 99.6 percent of earnings in metro counties. The trend in average nonfarm earnings per job in metro versus nonmetro areas is one measure of the changing urban-rural wage gap. In 2009, the average metro job paid $53,373 while the average job in a nonmetro county paid $36,920. Over the past 30 years, average metro earnings per job have grown faster than nonmetro earnings per job. As a result, average nonmetro earnings per job were equal to 69 percent of the metro average in 2009, compared with 81 percent in the late 1970s. This gap, however, appears to have narrowed in the wake of the 2001 recession, and also during the 2007-09 recession. This chart is found in the Rural Poverty & Well-being topic on the ERS website, updated May 27, 2012.

State poverty rates were generally highest in the South in 2010

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Newly released data show that every State in the U.S. saw an increase in poverty since the 2000 Census. Increases were highest for Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, each registering 2010 poverty rates more than 6 points higher than in 2000. Mississippi had the highest poverty rate in 2010, and was the only State to have an average poverty rate over 20 percent. This 2010 State poverty map is found in the data product 2010 County-Level Poverty Rates on the ERS website, updated December 2, 2011. State poverty rates for 2010 and previous years are found in the State Fact Sheets.

Nonmetro poverty rates exceed metro rates for all racial/ethnic groups

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Areas with a high incidence of poverty often reflect the low income of their racial/ethnic minorities. Nonmetro non-Hispanic Blacks had the highest incidence of poverty in 2010, at 32.9 percent (32.2 percent in 2009). The 2010 poverty rate for nonmetro Hispanics was 29.5 percent, which is 1.7 percentage points higher than in 2009. Both non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic poverty rates for 2010 were more than twice the rate for non-Hispanic Whites (13.1 percent), which was also the case in 2009. The high rate of poverty for Hispanics is noteworthy as their share of the nonmetro population has been increasing faster than other racial/ethnic groups, from less than 3 percent in 1990 to 7.4 percent in 2010. This chart is found in the Poverty Demographics chapter of the Rural Income, Poverty, and Welfare briefing room on the ERS website, updated September 17, 2011.

Nonmetro families in deep poverty reached a 20-year high in 2009

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 2007-09 recession was particularly severe in the depth of poverty it engendered. The number of nonmetro residents living in poverty increased more than 8 percent between 2007 and 2009 to 8.1 million (a 16.6-percent poverty rate). Of these, an estimated 3.3 million (6.7 percent of the nonmetro population) were in deep poverty in 2009, up nearly 13 percent from 2007. The number of nonmetro residents living in poverty rose markedly in the previous two recessions as well (as measured by 1989-91 and 2000-02 annual data). Yet, the change in the deep poverty count was substantially higher during the 2007-09 recession. This chart appeared in the June 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

People in the South and West have lower health insurance coverage than others

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

About 17 percent of all nonelderly individuals nationwide lack health insurance. Coverage rates are comparable for metro and nonmetro residents. (Because Medicare coverage starts at age 65, only a very small share of the elderly is uninsured.) Nonmetro coverage was lower as recently as the 1990s, and individuals in the more remote (noncore) counties still have lower coverage than urban residents. However, regional location appears to have more impact than rurality, with the Northeast and Midwest having consistently higher rates of health insurance coverage than the South and the West. This chart appeared in the September 2009 issue of Amber Waves.

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