In 2009, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Alaska counties had the lowest poverty rates for school-age children, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program. On the other end of the spectrum, the highest poverty rates for children between the ages of 5 and 17 were reported in the District of Columbia, Mississippi, and Arkansas counties.
“The main objective of this program is to provide estimates of income and poverty for the administration of federal programs and the allocation of federal funds to local jurisdictions. In addition to these federal programs, state and local programs use the income and poverty estimates for distributing funds and managing programs,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Between 2007 and 2009, the poverty rates for children ages 5 to 17 “showed no statistically significant change” for the majority of counties in the U.S. Poverty rates among school-age children rose in 295 counties and declined in 19 counties during this two-year period, according to the report.
Poverty is defined by a formula based on household income and the number of family members living in that household. These guidelines are developed and updated annually by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
The 2009 guidelines use income levels of $10,830 for the first person in the household, and $3,740 for each additional family member. Using this formula, a four-person family earning less than $22,050 would be considered at or below poverty level.
Among the 3,142 counties (or county-equivalent places) in the United States, the poverty rate for children between the ages of 5 and 17 was lowest in Falls Church, Virginia; Los Alamos County, New Mexico; Denali Borough, Alaska; Hunterdon County, New Jersey; and Loudoun County, Virginia.
Counties with the highest poverty rates among children in this age group were Ziebach County, South Dakota; Humphreys County, Mississippi; and Loving County, Texas; Holmes County, Mississippi; and Shannon County, South Dakota.
The SAIPE program estimates point to a national poverty rate of 18.2 percent for children ages 5 to 17. Poverty rates among school-age children were significantly above the national average in 1,084 counties, and significantly below national average in 866 counties.
The U.S. Census Bureau cautions that “these estimates contain uncertainty and apparent differences may not be statistically significant. Specifically, counties identified as minimum and maximum may have several other counties that are statistically indistinguishable.” Still, the data is among the tools that federal, state and local governments can use to determine funding for educational programs and services.