County & School District Estimates On School-Age Poverty (From Terri Ann Lowenthal)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Good morning, Funders Census Initiative colleagues.  I hope everyone had a restful and enjoyable Thanksgiving.
Today the Census Bureau released 2010 income and poverty estimates for counties and school districts (called the SAIPE data set, or Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates).  I thought these data would be of particular interest to many of you and your grantees working to address the consequences of poverty and income inequality.  These are the only estimates available on income and poverty for school districts.  The SAIPE estimates also include data for the total number of people in poverty, and the number of children under age 5 and from 5 - 17 (school age) in families in poverty, as well as median income data.
The U.S. Department of Education uses these data to allocate Title I funds to school districts across the country.  (As an aside, please let me know if you or your grantees want more information about these data.  I had the privilege of helping to design this program as a source of data for what was then the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- now No Child Left Behind -- when I was staff director of the House census oversight subcommittee.)
First, it is most important to understand the source of these data.  These annual estimates do NOT come directly from the census or American Community Survey (ACS).  Rather, they are produced through a combination of information from the 2000 and 2010 Censuses (base data), ACS, administrative records, and modeling.  The Census Bureau is unable to produce school-district poverty data directly from the census and ACS because so many school districts cross census jurisdictional lines (e.g. counties; towns; census tracts) and/or are too small for the ACS to produce statistically-reliable estimates directly.
Highlights of the new report and data: 
  • From 2007 - 2010, the poverty rate for school-age children rose (to a statistically significant degree) in about 20 percent of U.S. counties.  653 counties (out of 3,142) saw a significant increase in poverty for children in families.  (The Census Bureau used 2007 as a point of comparison for this report because it was a pre-recession year.)
  • Only eight counties saw a significant decrease in poverty for children in families.
  • About one-third of U.S. counties had a school-age poverty rate above the national average in 2010.
The SAIPE estimates and analysis are available at:
Thanks for your continued interest!
Terri Ann

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