Rural Poverty Worse While Metro Improves

More than one in four rural children lived in poverty in 2012, the highest level since the mid-1980s, a report says. Metro poverty rates began to fall after 2010, while rural poverty has continued to get worse.

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The recovery that has a tentative grip on the American economy has yet to find a toehold in rural America.

A new report from the USDA Economic Research Service shows that while poverty rates in urban America began to decline after 2010, the percentage of rural residents who live below the federal poverty level continued to climb after that date.

The growth in poverty rates since 2010 was worst among rural children, the report says.

More than one out of every four rural children (26.7%) lived in poverty in 2012, the report says. That’s the highest level since 1986.

Overall rural poverty in 2012 (17.8%) is also near its 1986 peak.

The chart shows that while the poverty rates for rural children and the general rural population continued to climb from 2010 to 2012, the poverty rates in urban areas began to taper off.

Rural America’s current economic difficulties are similar to the 1980s, “another period when an economic recession and slow rural recovery resulted in rising rural poverty rates long after urban poverty rates began declining,” the ERS report says. (For a look at a similar trend in job creation, see the Daily Yonder’s reports on rural employment.)

Rural and urban America also diverged in the incidence of “deep poverty,” the report says. Deep poverty is defined as having income of less than one half of the federal poverty threshold, which in 2012 meant having less than $1,000 a month for a family of four.

Rates of deep poverty continued to climb for rural residents from 2010 to 2012, while those rates declined for urban residents.

In 2012 12.2% of rural children lived in deep poverty, while 9.2% of urban children did.

Child poverty rates are an important measurement of the nation’s well being, the ERS report said. The impact of being poor as a child can have impacts that last a lifetime. And child poverty is especially sensitive to labor market conditions.





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