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Poverty Rate

Description: 

The American Community Survey (ACS) has been conducted on an ongoing basis for the entire country since 2005. Annually, calendar-year ACS results are released for areas with a population of at least 65,000. Due to the small sample size, single-year estimates are not available for less-populous areas. Combined estimates for three years of data are available annually for areas with a population of at least 20,000; five years of data are combined for less populous areas. The substantial sampling error present in the ACS is discussed in the data quality comments section below.

The ACS questionnaire asks respondents to supply the income from all sources of each person; the Census Bureau aggregates these figures by household and determines whether a person is living in poverty. Poverty rates are presented on Arizona Indicators by broad age group. Annual data since 2005 are presented for the United States and Arizona, but data for each of the 15 Arizona counties are limited to a five-year average due to the substantial sampling error.

Data Source: 

U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Annual ACS estimates are released in September; five-year averages are available in December.

Data Quality Comments: 

The Census Bureau publishes the ACS sampling error with every estimate, expressed as the margin of error with 90 percent confidence. The following is an example:

The estimate of the poverty rate in Maricopa County in 2009 was 15.2 percent, with a margin of error of + or – 0.6 percentage points. The interpretation is that there is a 90 percent likelihood that the actual poverty rate was within the confidence interval of 14.6 percent to 15.8 percent. A one-in-ten chance exists that the real rate was outside this range.

For the nation and other very populous areas, the annual ACS estimates are highly accurate. For moderately populous areas such as Arizona, sampling error is moderately large, so caution is urged in using the annual ACS data for the state. The sampling error for less populous areas, such as most of Arizona’s counties, is quite large, even when using five-year averages. Thus, considerable caution is urged in using the five-year ACS data for counties other than Maricopa and Pima.

The published margin of error should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to use a result from the ACS. Whether the reported sampling error is too large depends on the user’s purpose for accessing the data and on the volatility of the measure over time and across geographic areas. In addition to the sampling error, respondents do not always accurately report income and frequently refuse to provide this information.

iconPoverty Rate

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Visualization Notes:

Historically, the poverty rate has consistently been higher in Arizona than the national average. Both nationally and in Arizona, the poverty rate follows the economic cycle, rising during economic recessions and falling during economic expansions. In association with the deep recession and weak economic recovery, the rate rose from 13.0-to-15.9 percent nationally, and from 14.2-to-19.0 percent in Arizona, between 2007 through 2011. The rate has hardly dropped since 2011 nationally and in Arizona. In 2013, Arizona’s figure was 2.8 percentage points higher than the U.S. average.

iconPoverty Rate by Age Group, Arizona and United States

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Visualization Notes:

For the last several decades, the poverty rate has been highest among children and their young adult parents and lowest among retirees, both nationally and in Arizona. Between 2007 and 2011, the poverty rate among children and adults under the age of 65 increased, due to the weak economy. However, the poverty rate among retirees marginally decreased over the same period. The poverty rate in Arizona has been higher than the national average among children and adults under the age of 65, with larger increases between 2007 and 2011. The poverty rate in Arizona has been lower than average among senior citizens.

iconPoverty Rate in Total and for Those Under 18 Years Old, 2007-to-2011 Average

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Visualization Notes:

Overall, the average poverty rate between 2007 and 2011 was 1.9 percentage points higher in Arizona than the U.S. average. The differential was especially large among children (2.9 points); the poverty rate in Arizona was below the national average among senior citizens. Among children and adults under the age of 65, the poverty rate in Pinal County was about equal to the U.S. average; it was higher than average in the other 14 counties, with the highest rates in Apache and Navajo counties. Among those 65 or older, the lowest rates were in Yavapai, Mohave and Gila counties, each of which has a disproportionately large senior citizen population.

iconPoverty Rate for Those at Least 18 Years Old, 2007-to-2011 Average

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Visualization Notes:

Overall, the average poverty rate between 2007 and 2011 was 1.9 percentage points higher in Arizona than the U.S. average. The differential was especially large among children (2.9 points); the poverty rate in Arizona was below the national average among senior citizens. Among children and adults under the age of 65, the poverty rate in Pinal County was about equal to the U.S. average; it was higher than average in the other 14 counties, with the highest rates in Apache and Navajo counties. Among those 65 or older, the lowest rates were in Yavapai, Mohave and Gila counties, each of which has a disproportionately large senior citizen population.

Data Source

U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Annual ACS estimates are released in September; five-year averages are available in December.