State House News Service

Census: Income Dipped, Poverty Rose In Mass. From 2010-11

THE STATE HOUSE — Inflation-adjusted income dipped while the poverty rate and the number of people using food stamps ticked up from 2010 to 2011, according to American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday.

The number of people living in poverty rose from 11.4 percent in 2010 to 11.6 percent in 2011, an uptick that is within the 0.4 percent margin of error. The national poverty rate climbed from 15.3 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2011.

The poverty rate among households with children in Massachusetts went up from 12.8 percent to 13.1 percent, and while it fell slightly from 2010, the poverty rate among single-mother households was 25.6 percent in 2011.

The data had some seeking answers for how to pull people out of poverty.

“When more than one in seven kids in the state is growing up in poverty we need to ask what our Commonwealth can do to help our struggling families,” said Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center President Noah Berger, in a statement. “We could start by making sure that parents who want to work have access to job training and education and help paying for child care, and that we have a minimum wage that is at least enough to help working people escape poverty.”

The number of households receiving food stamps increased by 18,840, rising to 307,473 or 12.1 percent of the population from 2010 to 2011.

“One in nine residents of eastern Massachusetts is at risk of hunger,” Greater Boston Food Bank CEO Catherine D’Amato said in a statement in response to a request for an interview. “The Greater Boston Food Bank is serving an increasingly middleclass clientele, as many families are one lost job or illness away from needing help. Even as [Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program] beneficiaries rise, we have experienced a 23% increase in demand in recent years.”

Once adjusted for inflation, the median household income in 2011 dropped from $63,967 to $62,859, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, though without the inflation-adjustment, household median income has increased by about $800. The median household income in Massachusetts is about $10,000 higher than the median household income nationwide.

The percentage of people who receive health insurance remained largely unchanged at 95.7 percent, with the number of children under 18 at 98.3 percent, according to the survey. Nationwide, 84.9 percent of people and 92.5 percent of people under 18 receive health insurance, according to the Census.

Patrick administration officials use higher estimates, drawing their numbers from a 2010 Division of Health Care and Finance Policy study, which found that 98.1 percent of state residents and 99.8 percent of children in Massachusetts had health insurance. At the time the survey was taken 3,300 children in Massachusetts were found to be uninsured.

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