SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Poverty in Alaska


February 14, 2012
Tuesday AM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Data from the American Community Survey, collected between 2006 and 2010, show 9.5 percent of Alaskans lived in poverty over that period, according to the February issue of the Alaska Trends magazine. Unlike many other states whose poverty rates rose during the recession, Alaska’s percentage was not statistically different from the 9.4 percent in poverty in 2000, as measured by the decennial census.

In both 2000 and the 2006–2010 period, the poverty rate for Alaskans was noticeably lower than for the nation as a whole. The U.S. rate climbed from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 13.8 percent during 2006–2010. Alaska’s poverty rate was also well below those of Washington (12.1%), Oregon (14.0%), and California (13.7%).

Alaska’s lower poverty rates were reported to be mostly the result of the state’s relatively high per-capita income, which ranked ninth in the U.S. in 2010. However, Alaska also has a higher-than-average cost of living, which makes the comparison less meaningful than it would be if living costs were a consideration.

Married couples in Alaska — with and without children — had the lowest poverty rate from 2006–2010, at 2.6 percent. The rate among married couples with children under the age of 18 was slightly higher, at 4.0 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, female heads of households with young children and no husband had the highest poverty rate at 41.4 percent. Many of these women were likely single mothers, but this category also includes grandmothers and other women raising children who aren’t their own.

Overall, children were 26 percent of the measured population but 37 percent of the individuals in poverty. The poverty rate was also higher for families with young children under 5 at 14.0 percent than for the larger category of families with children under 18 at 10.6 percent.

Another category with high poverty rates is unrelated individuals over age 15 who live together — in other words, roommates or unmarried couples. People in this category had a poverty rate of 18.4 percent.

Poverty rates by household makeup in various Southeast Alaska communities from 2006-2010:

  • Ketchikan Gateway Borough 8.3%
  • Prince of Wales-Hyder 14.0%
  • Sitka 7.0%
  • Wrangell 8.3%
  • Juneau 6.5%
  • Skagway 10.8%
  • Haines 7.2%

Measuring poverty is an important task, but it can be a challenge to figure out what the measures mean and how they should be used. The U.S. Census Bureau calculates nationwide “poverty thresholds” for individuals and households based on family size and ages. If a family’s income is below the applicable threshold, that family and every person in it are considered in poverty.

The 2010 U. S. poverty threshold as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau for a family of four, made up of two adults and two children under the age of 18, was $22,113 in 2010. The threshold rises for each additional person living in the home, to a maximum of $48,527 for a family of nine or more. The thresholds change slightly depending on how many people in the household are children under age 18.

A poverty designation does not necessarily mean the family or its members qualify for a specific public benefit, though. Eligibility is determined by the federal, state, and local agencies that provide the benefits, and poverty thresholds should not be confused with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “poverty guidelines,” which are widely used to determine eligibility.

To read the full article, download the February 2012 issue of Alaska Trends. (pdf)


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews

Source of News: 

Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development


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