Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tracking Poverty By Age Group: 1970 to 2010

A recent article I read about poverty suggests that while the "war on poverty" has been successful, it has somewhat stagnated as well. During President Johnson's term in office, the war on poverty helped raise millions above the poverty line: the poverty rate dropped from 23 percent to 12 percent.

But where do we stand today? The government's official measure of poverty shows that poverty has actually increased slightly since the Johnson administration, rising from 14.2 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012.

Interestingly, information from the Columbia Population Research Center shows how national poverty rates have changed over time since the late 1960s, and in particular how these have changed for various age groups as well. They specifically looked at poverty rates among children, working age population, and the elderly over the last 45 years or so. Below is a graph showing the poverty rates for each of those age groups since 1967.

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This chart suggests that the poverty rate for the elderly has fallen, as has child poverty rates, since 1967. But the working-age poverty rate has stayed flat for 40 years. It dropped from 20 percent in 1967 to about 15 percent in 1974, and remains there today.

Locally, the patterns are a bit different, as seen below.

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In both counties, poverty rates among the elderly do appear to have fallen over the last 40 years, similar to national data trends. However, poverty among children, those under the age of 18, has risen and risen sharply particularly since 1990. And while national poverty rates among those of "working age" (between 18 and 64)has been relatively stagnant, regionally these rates have seen a steady climb since 1970.