Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Which are the Poorest Counties in America and PA (Based on the Federal Poverty Level)?

Blank US MapDespite the many flaws in the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), a new article and interactive map from the New York Times showing poverty in the United States by county is worth a look. According to the article, Ziebach County, South Dakota, holds the dubious honor of being the poorest county in the country, with 54.4 percent of residents living below the FPL.

Here in Pennsylvania, the county with the highest level of poverty is Forest County (in northwest PA) with 24.2 percent of residents living below the FPL, followed by Philadelphia with 23.8 percent and Fayette County with 20.8 percent.

While Forest County has the highest number of residents living below the poverty level, the most children living below the FPL are in Fayette County, where 33.9 percent of residents under age 18 live in poverty.

As always when looking at the FPL, it is important to remember that here are also families who are being overlooked that are in need. In general, the FPL underestimates the number of those earning less than what they need, which in turn undermines the ability to locate and serve families in crisis. For instance, in Pennsylvania in 2007, about 9% of households fell below the FPL, but 21% of households actually earned less than what they need at a minimum to support their families.

To learn more about the needs of families in every county in PA, please read our Self-Sufficiency Standard for Pennsylvania and Overlooked and Undercounted: Struggling to Make Ends Meet in Pennsylvania (and let us know what you think in the comments!).

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