Community Dividend

Census data show U.S. poverty rate holding steady, but still higher than pre-recession level

Published October 1, 2013  | October 2013 issue

The nation’s overall poverty rate and median household income changed little from 2011 to 2012, according to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey (ACS). The poverty rate held at 15.9 percent from 2011 to 2012, while real median household income saw a statistically insignificant increase, from $51,324 to $51,371. Although conditions have not worsened, neither measure has made up for ground lost in the recent economic recession. The 2012 poverty rate is still 2.9 percentage points higher than it was in 2007, the last year before the recession began. And when adjusted for inflation, the 2012 median income is lower, in terms of purchasing power, than the 2007 median household income of $50,740.

The census data release includes graphs and statistical briefs for each of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.—one of which, the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area of Minnesota and Wisconsin, is located in the Ninth Federal Reserve District. The area was 1 of only 2 of the top 25 metros to see a statistically significant increase in median household income, from $64,712 in 2011 to $66,282 in 2012. However, the poverty rate in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area remained the same from 2011 to 2012, at 15.5 percent.

The ACS is conducted annually and has a sample size of approximately 3 million people. The data it produces provide detailed estimates of demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of various geographic localities and population groups. For more on the ACS and its findings, visit