Poverty and Income in Florida

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Publication Date: 
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
  • Hector H. Sandoval, PhD, Bureau of Economic and Business Research and Department of Economics

The poverty rate is a key economic indicator often used to evaluate current economic conditions and how economic well-being changes over time. It’s an important indicator that affects not only the general public perceptions of well-being, but also public policies and social programs.

The current poverty measure compares families’ annual pre-tax money income against a poverty threshold to determine whether or not they are poor. The thresholds are dollar amounts that differ by family size and ages of the members. In 2014, the poverty threshold for a family of four, two children and two adults, was $24,008, for example.1

In the years previous to the last recession, between 2005 and 2007, the national poverty rate was around 12.5 percent in the U.S., while the poverty rate in Florida was remarkably lower, around 11.7 percent on average. Figure 1 shows the poverty rate from 1980 to 2014 for the U.S. and the state of Florida. During the recession years, the poverty rate increased considerably leading to the highest national poverty rate in the last 17 years, that is, 15.1 percent in 2010. In this same period, the poverty rate in Florida increased 3.5 percentage points, from 12.5 to 16.0 percent, bringing a higher rate for Florida compared to the national rate.2

In year 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, the official national poverty rate was 14.8 percent, which translates to 46.7 million people in poverty. The poverty rate in Florida was 16.7, and it was 4.2 percentage points higher than 2007, the year before the most recent recession. 

 

Figure 1. Poverty rate in the U.S. and Florida, 1980 - 2014.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

 

In year 2013, the most recent year for which county-level data are available, the poverty rates in Florida’s counties ranged between 9.6 to 33.9 percent, corresponding to St. Johns and DeSoto counties, respectively. The map below shows that the higher poverty rates were located in the north part of the state, with the exception of DeSoto and Hardee. The lowest poverty rates were mainly concentrated on the south and east part of Florida.

 

Map. Poverty rate in Florida's counties, 2013.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program.

 

Although the poverty rates were higher in the north, it’s worth noting that three southern counties concentrated one-third of Florida’s 3.2 million of poor. In 2013, 0.55 million of poor were located in Miami-Dade, 0.28 million in Broward, and 0.20 in Palm Beach. Table 1 shows the rank of Florida’s counties by the total population in poverty. The first 6 counties (adding Orange, Hillsborough, and Duval to the list) concentrated almost half of the population identified as poor; and the first 12 counties two-thirds of the state total.

 

Table. Ranks of Florida's counties.3

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program.

 

Figure 2 displays the distribution of the median household income throughout Florida’s counties. In year 2013, at the county level, the median household income ranged from $30,391 to $66,312. The county with the highest median income was St. Johns, which is notably the county with the lowest poverty rate. Clay and Nassau follow in second and third place, respectively. The county in the middle of this distribution was Miami-Dade County, with a median household income of $41,840, which ranked first with respect to the number of poor persons. In other words, half of the counties (33 counties) had a higher median income level than Miami-Dade, and the other half had lower levels. The county at the bottom of the distribution was Madison County, with a median household income of $30,391.4

 

Figure 2. Median household income by county, 2013.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program.

 

Summarizing, the poverty rate in Florida increased more than the national rate during the recession years. At the county level, there was a great dispersion of the poverty rates within the state of Florida. Although the poverty rates were higher in the northern counties, poverty (number of total poor) was concentrated in the southern counties. Finally, the ranking of Florida’s counties by poverty rates was consistent with the ranking by the median household income, where the counties with high median income levels experienced the lower poverty rates.

 

Notes:

1The poverty thresholds are dollar amounts used to determine poverty status. Each person or family is assigned one out of 48 possibly poverty threshold. The threshold vary according the family size and ages of the members. The same thresholds are used throughout the U.S., and are updated annually for inflation. The poverty thresholds are available here: https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/

2According to the information in the Current Population Survey (CPS), the national poverty rate for the years from 2005 to 2007 are: 12.6, 12.3, and 12.5; and for Florida: 11.1, 11.5, and 12.5. The information from the American Community Survey (ACS), which is a better source for poverty rates at the state level, confirms that Florida’s poverty rates are below the national level in the years previous to the recession and the substantial increase between 2007 and 2010 (see Figure 3 below).

a new revision

3Numbers differ from the national official estimates which use the CPS-ASEC as a source of information.

4The median of county level values, $41,840, is not the same measure as the median household income in Florida, $46,021, and in U.S., $52,250.

 

Sources:

[1] U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Available at BEBR: https://www.bebr.ufl.edu/data/series/47  

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS). Release date September 2015.

Available at BEBR: https://www.bebr.ufl.edu/data/series/47   

[3] U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program. Release date: December 2014.

Available at BEBR: https://www.bebr.ufl.edu/data/2116/state/12000-state-florida  

 

Appendix:

 

Figure 3. Poverty rate (90 percent confidence interval), 2005 - 2014.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS). Release date September 2015.

 

Figure 4. Rank of Florida's counties by poverty rate and median household income.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program.

 

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