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State Poverty Rate Increased In 2016, But Still Lower Than National Average

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Vermont to be the only state in the country to see an increase in the poverty rate in 2016 — however the lower rate in 2015 was an outlier compared to previous years, according to an official at the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data from theAmerican Community Survey, released last week, shows the poverty rate in the state increased last year from 10.2 percent to 11.9 percent.

Ashley Edwards, chief of the poverty statistic branch at the U.S. Census Bureau, said Vermont's poverty rate in 2015 had been lower than the rates in previous years.

“And when you look over the past five years, the 2016 poverty rate isn't statistically different from 2014, 2013 or 2012,” she said. “So really, what it looks like, is 2015 really serving as more of an outlier over that period.”

The American Community Survey was created to provide updates on housing statistics, social characteristics, demographics and the economy.

In the most recent survey, Edwards said the state “didn’t see a change in the unemployment rate” and “there was no change in median or average household, as well as family income.”

In this survey, the Census Bureau also looked specifically at Chittenden County, Vermont’s most populous county.

Edwards said they found no statistical changes in the overall poverty in the county, though in the Burlington-South Burlington metro area, Edwards notes that they “did see evidence that increase in poverty is focused among individuals who are living alone or with non-relatives.”

“But again, those increases, in unrelated individuals poverty rate, is consistent with 2014, 2013 and 2012 estimates — so sort of reinforcing the uniqueness of the previous year, 2015,” she said.  

Vermont’s poverty rate is still lower than the national rate, which Edwards said is 14 percent. She also said in 2016, only nine states had lower poverty rates than Vermont.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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