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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Poverty is up in Delaware, Despite National Trends

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A new Census Bureau study shows that Delaware is one of only two states to experience an increase in its poverty rate between 2016 and 2017.

The First State joins West Virginia in suffering a rise among residents living below the poverty line during a period that saw poverty rate reductions 20 states and most holding steady.  Delaware’s poverty rate jumped from 11.7 to 13.6 percent, the highest rate in a decade.

The concerning data come at a time when the national economy is roaring, and other local bellwethers – unemployment rates, the housing market, etc. – are generally heading in a positive direction.  And while seeing a worrisome bump, the state’s poverty level is still significantly below that of other states experiencing rates in the high teens.

In an article in US News and World Report, UD professor Daniel Rich suggest a variety of factors, including demographic changes, have contributed to Delaware’s increased poverty.

From the article:

If Delaware’s poverty rate is rising, it could be related to an increase in racial and economic diversity as more people migrate to the state, according to Daniel Rich, a professor at University of Delaware’s School of Public Policy and Administration. Rich and his colleagues usually look at poverty rates over a three-year period, instead of the American Community Survey’s one-year measurement, to avoid anomalies with a particularly small state population. Still, he acknowledges that a changing population would impact the poverty rate.

“Demographics (in Delaware) have been changing, and you can see those changes in many areas,” he says.

The article further points to pockets of poorer immigrant populations and more children in impoverished communities as a factor in Delaware’s poverty spike:

Delaware is among the states that have seen the fastest growth of their Hispanic populations. Between 2007 and 2014, the state’s Hispanic population grew by 63 percent, from 51,000 to 83,000.

The state’s Hispanic and Latino population was more than 89,500 in 2017 and accounted for 9.3 percent of its total population, a marginal increase from the year before, according to the Census data.

Rich says the state’s rural, western region of Sussex County is experiencing a Hispanic population boom and is growing faster than Delaware’s other two counties. One in five Delawareans who identify as Hispanic or Latino live in poverty, which is more than twice the rate of white, non-Hispanics.

Like the rest of the state’s population, the demographics of its young population is changing drastically. In 1980, three-fourths of Delaware children were white, according to University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration. By 2014, half of children in the state were a minority.

Delaware’s Child Poverty Task Force outlined recommendations in 2009 to reduce child poverty by 50 percent over 10 years. As the new statistics suggest, this goal is still far from being achieved.

“The legislation was fragmented and dispersed, and it did not have the kind of impact that people had hoped,” Rich says.

Go here for the complete report.

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