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Census release ranks Arizona’s poverty rate 13th highest in nation

[Source: Christine Rogel, Cronkite News Service] — Arizona’s poverty rate stood at 14.7 percent in 2008, 13th highest in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday.  In all, 935,000 Arizonans were estimated to live in poverty, defined by the federal government as less than $14,489 per homeowner under 65.  That was up from 876,000 in 2007. “It’s worrisome because behind the numbers are real people and families struggling, and during the recession it has gotten worse,” said Timothy Schmaltz, coordinator for Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition.  “We’re living in a state where we have food boxes, but they’re smaller than they were a year before because they are serving more people.”

The national poverty rate was 13.2 percent in 2008, up from 13 percent in 2007.  Mississippi had the highest rate at 20.8 percent; New Hampshire’s was lowest at 7.8 percent.  In Arizona, Yavapai and Greenlee counties had rates that fell below the national average: 12.9 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively.  Maricopa County’s rate was 13.4 percent.  The report said that one in three Apache County residents lived in poverty, giving that county the 45th-highest rate among more than 3,000 counties analyzed in the report.

Elizabeth Segal, professor of social work at Arizona State University, said that cuts in social services due to the state’s budget crisis have exacerbated the problem of poverty.  She said early childhood education is key.  [Note: Read the full article at Census release ranks Arizona’s poverty rate 13th highest in nation.]

Between 1999-2005, working poverty declined in metro Phoenix

[Source: Brookings Institute] — An analysis of the changing geographic distribution of low-income workers and their families, measured by receipt of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in tax years 1999 and 2005, nationwide and in 58 major metropolitan areas across the country reveals that:

  • The number of tax filers nationwide living in areas with high rates of working poverty increased by 40%, or 1.6 million filers, between tax years 1999 and 2005.  By 2005, 12.3% of low-income working families lived in high-working-poverty communities — ZIP codes where more than 40% of taxpayers claimed the EITC — up from 10.4% in 1999.
  • Of 58 large metropolitan areas studied, 34 experienced increased rates of concentrated working poverty (the share of EITC filers living in high-working-poverty communities) over the first half of the decade, while 24 showed declines.  Older industrial metro areas including Detroit and Rochester exhibited the greatest increases in concentrated working poverty, while the Los Angeles and Phoenix metro areas experienced the largest declines.
  • Major metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast experienced substantial increases in concentrated working poverty over the first half of the decade, but Western metro areas saw steep declines.  Metro areas in the Northeast and West had similar rates of concentrated working poverty in 1999 (13%), but by mid-decade, the rate had risen to 18% in the Northeast while it dropped to 7% in the West.
  • Both central cities and suburbs saw an increase in high-working-poverty communities between tax years 1999 and 2005.  The number of tax filers living in high-working-poverty areas in the central cities of major metropolitan areas across the country grew by 40%, while the surrounding suburbs experienced an increase of 36%.  Still, central-city EITC recipients were five times as likely (25%) as suburban EITC recipients (5%) to live in high-working-poverty communities in 2005.

These trends suggest that the decline in concentrated poverty that occurred during the 1990s may be reversing over the course of this decade, particularly in regions hardest hit by the economic challenges of the early 2000s.  Policies that foster stronger national and regional economic growth — together with targeted efforts to create and protect neighborhoods of choice and connection — may offer the best route to longer-term progress against concentrated poverty.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

New report says Phoenix has low concentration of working-poor neighborhoods

[Source: Russ Wiles, Arizona Republic] — Do poor people live in or near your neighborhood?  The answer could be yes, as working-poor families in the Valley are more spread out than in most other cities.  And that’s generally good for them and for the economy, according to a report being released today.  The study from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., shows the Valley is bucking a national trend in which poor working families increasingly cluster together.  The study ranks the Phoenix metro area as having the fifth-lowest concentration of working-poor neighborhoods of 58 urban areas studied.  The Valley also ranks second-best in the country for its percentage decline in poor-neighborhood concentrations over a recent six-year period.

The study focuses on the geographic concentration of poverty rather than the number of low-income families because people who live in disadvantaged geographic areas face a “double burden,” according to the report’s authors.  They not only must try to make ends meet on low incomes but also usually live in areas characterized by few jobs, higher consumer prices, low housing values, more crime, worse community health standards, inferior schools, and so on.

Western cities generally scored well in terms of low concentrations of poverty-riddled neighborhoods – and in terms of the change of that concentration from 1999 to 2005.  The Sacramento, San Diego, and Washington, D.C., metro areas had the lowest concentrated poverty rates, followed by Trenton, N.J., and the Phoenix metro area, including Mesa and Scottsdale.  Also, the Valley enjoyed the second-biggest decrease in high-poverty neighborhoods from 1999 to 2005, trailing only the Los Angeles metro area.  The study relied on 2005 because that’s the most recent year for which poverty data were available.  However, the Valley’s job market, housing market and economy have deteriorated since then — a trend also pronounced in Los Angeles and other Western cities that scored well in the report.  “If you take it forward to 2008, things might not look quite as rosy for Phoenix and other Western cities,” said Alan Berube, a Brookings research director and report co-author.  “Performance of the regional economy explains a lot.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]