About one in every five Louisiana residents lives in poverty, a rate that has not changed significantly since 2000, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Additionally, Louisiana’s median household income rose in 2012 but still lags behind most of the rest of the nation, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey that compares statistics gathered in 2011 with those gathered in 2012.
“It’s kind has a mixed bag feel to it,” said Troy Blanchard, an associate LSU professor who researches the link between socioeconomic conditions and demographic outcomes within U.S. communities.
The percentage of Louisiana residents living in poverty — roughly at or below a $23,550 annual income for a family of four — increased significantly from 2010 to 2011, Blanchard said.
The poverty rate dropped from 20.4 percent to 19.9 percent in Louisiana, which was a decline within the survey’s margin for error. “So, statistically they’re equal numbers,” Blanchard said.
State Department of Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said in a prepared statement that Louisiana showed improvement, particularly when compared with the national poverty rate. The percentage of this state’s population in poverty fell a half of 1 percent, or a 0.5 point decline when 2011 figures are compared with 2012 statistics, which was the ninth-best improvement in the nation.
“This is more evidence that, while Louisiana hasn’t been immune from challenging national economic conditions, our state nevertheless continues to economically outperform the South and U.S.,” Moret stated. “The best anti-poverty program is a good job, which is one of the reasons why we have made economic development our top priority.”
The Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Budget Project, which researches state financial policies and their impacts on low and moderate income families, calculated that 891,981 of the state’s 4.6 million people live in poverty, which is the third-highest rate in the nation. More than 300,000 of those people are children, which at 28 percent is the third-highest in the country.
Jan Moller, director of Louisiana Budget Project pointed out that the census report showed black residents were almost three times as likely as white residents to live in poverty last year — 35.5 percent versus 12.4 percent.
Some areas, such as Houma, have shown economic growth and overall poverty rates that reflect the national average, the report shows. “You have areas in south Louisiana, where we have a strong energy economy, that are doing about as well as the rest of the country. But you have other areas that are extremely poor,” he said.
And, Moller said, wages in Louisiana continue to lag behind the rest of the nation.
Louisiana showed a 4.2 percent increase in median household income, one of a few states that showed a rise, between 2000 and 2012. The median household income, meaning the same number having more as having less, in Louisiana was $41,227 in 2000 and $42,944 in 2012.
State estimates for median household income in 2012 ranged from a high of $71,122 in Maryland to a low of $37,095 in Mississippi. The U.S. median household income was $51,371 in 2012.
The official poverty level was defined back in the 1960s as the cost of food time three, said Teresa Falgoust, a coordinator for Agenda for Children, a New Orleans organization that tracks law and policies involving children.
Much of the monetary aid provided by the federal government to people and to state governments is keyed to that official rate. The rate for 2013 is a $23,550 annual income for a family of four.
A graduated level of services is based on income levels in relation to that amount. Most of the services are available for up to 200 percent the poverty rate or $47,100 for a family of four.