Archive for Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Social service agencies dispute Douglas County census poverty rates

November 29, 2011


If you believe the U.S. Census Bureau, Lawrence and Douglas County residents have been doing a stellar job of pulling themselves out of poverty lately.

The problem is, several social service providers say they don’t believe the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau on Tuesday released figures that estimate that about 23,000 Douglas County residents were below the federal poverty level in 2009 — a rate of 21.7 percent, which was the second highest of any county in Kansas. But then in 2010, the number of people in poverty dropped to about 16,000 people — a rate of 15.6 percent.

In other words, there are about 7,000 fewer people in poverty in Douglas County, despite an economy that continues to sputter. To some social service providers, those numbers don’t make sense.

“I haven’t seen an improvement. What I’ve seen are more people,” said Linda Lassen, program director at Penn House, which provides utility, food and clothing assistance to those in need. “I’m guessing that 20 percent of the people we’re helping are people we haven’t seen before. That is a big increase for us.”

Douglas County’s drop in the poverty rate runs counter to what has happened statewide. The poverty rate in Kansas rose to 13.5 percent in 2010, up from 13.2 percent in 2009. Compared to 2007 — before the recession — the rate is up by about 2 percent. The rate for children living in poverty has increased even more sharply during the time period. The Census Bureau estimates 22.1 percent of all Kansas children 0 to 4 years old were in poverty in 2010. That’s up from 17.9 percent in 2007.

A spokesman with the Census Bureau said he wasn’t able to explain the large drop in the Douglas County numbers, but he said the sampling methods used in 2009 may have been flawed and produced a number that was too high.

“It looks like there may be some statistical uncertainty with the 2009 level,” said Wes Basel, a branch chief with the Census Bureau.

But if the 2009 levels are the ones in error, that suggests an interesting conclusion too. If the 2010 numbers are correct, Douglas County’s poverty rate is virtually unchanged from the levels prior to the recession. The county had about a poverty rate of 15.4 percent in 2007 versus 15.6 percent in 2010.

Other numbers from Tuesday’s report include:

• Douglas County’s overall poverty rate is higher than that of the state’s, but its poverty rates for children are lower. The percent of people below 18 who live in poverty was 13.8 percent in Douglas County versus 15.9 percent statewide.

• Johnson County continues to have the lowest poverty rate in the state at 6.6 percent. Others in the bottom five were: Gray County, 8.1 percent; Miami County, 8.8 percent; Jefferson County, 9.0 percent; Pottawatomie County, 9.0 percent.

• Wyandotte County had the highest poverty rate in the state at 23.9 percent. Others in the top five were: Riley County, 21.2 percent; Cherokee County, 20.1 percent; Lyon County, 19.6 percent; Crawford County, 19.2 percent.

• Douglas County in 2010 had the 23rd highest poverty rate in the state. In 2009, it had the second highest rate in the state.

• 2010 poverty rates for other counties of interest included: Leavenworth, 9.4 percent; Franklin County, 11.6 percent; Osage County, 12.1 percent; Sedgwick County, 15.3 percent; Shawnee County, 17.5 percent.

The bureau estimates poverty based on surveys it takes year-round as part of the American Community Survey, as well from federal tax return data and applications for free and reduced lunches at school districts. The actual poverty level varies based on the size of a household.


Jayhawk1958 5 years, 12 months ago

Nationally it's 1 out of 3 are in poverty.

parrothead8 5 years, 12 months ago

The U.S. Census Bureau says you're wrong, putting the number at about 1 in 6.6.

Sunny Parker 5 years, 12 months ago

I'm surprised. More and more people are figuring out how to doop the system!

Lawrence_Pilot 5 years, 12 months ago

Firstly...if you don't know how to spell Dupe, why should we believe anything you say?

Secondly, which system do you accuse poor folks duping? And why?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 12 months ago

Is it really necessary to defend common knowledge?

verity 5 years, 12 months ago

"Is it really necessary to defend common knowledge?"

Yes, it is. Commonly, "common knowledge" is wrong, arising from an assumption on somebody's part which gets repeated until it becomes "common knowledge."

jhawkinsf 5 years, 12 months ago

Funny you should mention that. As I write this, the LJW is running an article detailing fraud in the food stamp program here in Kansas. The report was compiled by the USDA.

ignatius_j_reilly 5 years, 12 months ago

Come on -- no matter what government system, people dupe it. So do you only care when rich folks dupe the tax code, or do you also care when poor people dupe welfare programs?

ignatius_j_reilly 5 years, 12 months ago

And, to be a wise_ _ _ since you started it, I'll point out that you've incorrectly capitalized the D in dupe ;)

justfoodks 5 years, 12 months ago

I can only speak for what we have seen at Just Food, the food bank in Douglas County. We saw nearly 15,000 people come through our doors in 2010, and of those 15,000 people, less than 5% came to receive food assistance every month. Staggeringly, 50% of those numbers came ONE time to our food pantry to receive assistance.

Contrary to what many think, most do not abuse the system at all. We have the statistics to back that up.

ignatius_j_reilly 5 years, 12 months ago

Thanks for the input, and for your service to the community. I'd be curious: is that based on a survey response, or do you take their names? Because -- while I don't doubt what you've said -- if someone asked me if I've been here before, and I had only been once or twice, I'd probably say no.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 12 months ago

All systems are subject to abuse, but I doubt the poor are the primary perpetrators. Don't ask who got special deals in DG county on tax breaks, farm subsidies, etc.

ksarmychick 5 years, 12 months ago

Just looked up how much a family can recieve in food stamps a month , "An individual living alone can get a maximum of $200 a month. A family of two can get $367; three, $526; four, $668; five, $793; six, $952; seven $1,052; eight $1,202." Now also take into consideration that a family that recieves food stamps with children under 5 is probably also enrolled in WIC (which is about $50 a child a month in benefits) and if the kids are school aged they also probably get free or reduced price lunch. So, If they have school aged children they could recieve $668 a month plus have their kids breakfasts and lunches paid for. So $668 just to pay for dinner and snacks for a family of 5. Now I know why all the families that used vision cards while I worked at Walmart during college as a cashier were eating better then me.
I am able to feed my family of 4 without gov't assistance for less then $400 a month. What could they possibly be buying that could justify them needing that much money in food stamps a month? And we wonder why obesity is a growing epidemic in America.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 12 months ago

For one thing, in both isolated rural areas and in poor urban areas, there are very few options for purchasing groceries, and what options there are tend to be low quality and high price.

deec 5 years, 12 months ago

Just because the maximums are high doesn't mean lots of people are getting those amounts. The food benefit is determined by household income. It is highly unlikely that many people are receiving anywhere near those amounts. You would need to have pretty much zero income to get the max. On the other hand, the governor receives farm subsidies while politicking in Washington and Topeka. "Sen. Sam Brownback is another one of the conservatives in the Republican Party that have cried socialism on all sorts of things, while collecting farm subsidies, an estimated $500,000 worth over 11 years." We have an awful lot of misdirected outrage in this country.

thinkagain 5 years, 12 months ago

The more interesting story, and it ties into the higher usage of services, is how many previously solid MIDDLE CLASS Douglas County families are sliding quickly towards being under poverty level? What are the income numbers for that group who might not quite meet the income guidelines for "in poverty" but are fast approaching that place? That would be the much more telling picture of what is happening in Douglas County.

mloburgio 5 years, 12 months ago

bendover61 drops the soap to much in the shower.

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