Poverty in North Dakota

The Census Bureau releases updated data (2015 data) on poverty tomorrow so it seems prudent to review the data for North Dakota now. Poverty is an important topic, and intimately connected to the debate over income and wealth inequality that are all the rage right now. The situation in North Dakota is somewhat interesting, and how we talk about poverty is important. This discussion refers to table S1701 reporting the 5-year ACS estimates.

Over the last three years the number of people living in poverty in North Dakota increased modestly from 78,930 to 80,865. At the same time the official poverty rate (we will discuss the supplemental poverty measures another time, in another post) declined from 12.1% to 11.9%. So let’s get this out of the way first, more people in poverty is not a good thing, but these are not statistically significant changes. Essentially the correct way to think about poverty in North Dakota is that from 2012 to 2014 the poverty level and rate in North Dakota stayed about the same. This is roughly true if you look at the numbers broken down by sex, where it was the case that more women were in poverty than men. Women in poverty went from 44,717 and 13.8% in the 2008-12 data to 44,838 and 13.4% in the 2010-14 data.

Looking along other demographics the highest reported poverty rate by race is for American Indian and Alaska Native at over 40%, but again the fluctuations in this time are small. In fact only one race category stays below double digits in poverty rate over these years and that is white. Over this time period more education is consistent with less poverty as the numbers consistently show that those aged 25 and over with less than a high school degree have a poverty rate over 20%, while those with a high school degree have a poverty rate half that level.

It will be interesting to see what the new numbers bear out for North Dakota. I think the inequality debates are going to hit North Dakota in a more direct fashion sooner rather than later, so these data are important. My suspicion is that it will be more of the same where there are not significant statistical differences from one year to the next.


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