Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another state with higher poverty; Rhode Island

After the US Census Bureau released the poverty figures last week, we are see stories for individual states that further break down the numbers.

In an area of the US that has very little poverty, the state of Rhode Island has seen the biggest increase in the past year. The tiny state now has more poverty than any other in the New England region. The increase is blamed on the global recession and the cuts in the number of jobs.

From the Providence Journal, writer Paul Edward Parker has this look at the census numbers.

From 2007 to 2008, Rhode Island displaced Massachusetts as the New England state with the highest poverty rate. The state also leap-frogged past Maine and Vermont in the process, going from fourth highest to highest in the six-state region.

Even so, Rhode Island didn't fare too badly compared to the national average because the New England had some of the lowest poverty rates in the country. New Hampshire had the lowest rate nationally, at 7.0 percent.

Connecticut was third, with 8.1 percent, and Vermont sixth, with 9.0 percent. Rhode Island's 12.7 percent rate tied it with Kansas for 26th lowest in the nation, and the state had less poverty than the country as a whole, which measured 13.2 percent.

"So many people have lost their jobs," said Linda Katz, policy director, the Poverty Institute at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work. " The increase in poverty is related to the fact that people have lost their jobs and their source of income."

Katz noted that Rhode Island's unemployment rate jumped more than two percentage points from July 2007 to July 2008. Revised numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show the rate increased during that period from 5.2 percent to 7.9 percent.

"Our concern, of course, is going forward," she said. "We're very concerned about what the data in 2009 is going to show because we've fallen much deeper into economic hardship."

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