Florida’s poverty rate reveals how much more work we have to do

Florida’s poverty rate reveals how much more work we have to do 

Excerpt: Nearly a decade after the Great Recession, the percentage of Floridians who were living in poverty in 2017 was at it’s lowest level since 2008, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

About 14 percent of the Sunshine State’s population had incomes below the poverty line last year compared to 13.2 percent in 2008. 

That means between 2.8 million and 2.9 million people were living in poverty in Florida in 2017. 

The Census Bureau measures poverty annually and sets the threshold based on factors such as household income and family size, including the number of children. A family of four, including two children, would be considered below the poverty line in 2017 if their combined income was less than $24,848.

Bottom Line: Good news is good news so I’m not going to rain on Florida’s parade as we’ve successfully reduced the official poverty rate in our state to the lowest levels since the start of the Great Recession. Context is always key however, and the context of this story is what the US poverty rate was then and what it is today, so we can compare our progress. That picture isn’t quite as pretty.  

  • In 2008 the US poverty rate was 13.2%, the exact same rate as Florida 
  • The current US poverty rate is 12.7%, while Florida’s is 14%

What’s evident is that Florida’s most economically vulnerable have been slower to recover than the national average. This at a time in which Florida’s job growth has been 2nd best nationally over the same period of time and our economic growth has been above the national average as well. It’s worth mentioning that this data is all over a year old. Government data always is, so it’s possible we’ve made progress and just haven’t realized it yet, but still I don’t like seeing that we’re lagging with those struggling the most.  

This reminded me of a story I prepared yesterday that demonstrated that white students don’t generally benefit from Charter Schools, but minority students do generally perform better in these schools. As we’ve long known the greatest disparity in professional outcomes stems from education outcomes. In other words, the fix for poverty issues isn’t an overnight one and does require improved education. Here are Florida current poverty rates by race: 

  • Black: 20% 
  • Hispanic: 18% 
  • White: 9%

It’s evident where there’s work to do demographically and there’s the greatest need demographically in South Florida. The question in my mind would be why we wouldn’t embrace all available information as we seek to truly provide a path for a better life and upward mobility to future generations? 

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