Erie Vital Signs

Poverty and Self-Sufficiency : Poverty Rate by Age

Recent Performance

This trend is positive and improving.

In 2014, approximately 16.3% of Erie County residents were below the poverty level. That's a decrease of two full percentage points from the 18.3% rate in 2013--good news indeed. Currently, the poverty rate in Erie is above that for the U.S. (15.5%) and Pennsylvania (13.6%), but below the average of the thirteen Erie Vital Signs peer areas (16.6%). As of 2014, Erie had a higher rate than eight of the 13 peers. The poverty rate dropped from 2013 to 2014 for the nation, also, but only by 0.3 percentage points, and PA's drop was only 0.1 percentage points. So Erie got quite a bit closer to the rates of the state and the nation.

Poverty rates can differ greatly from place to place depending on demographic characteristics of the residents, such as age. Poverty rates are often higher for younger people and lower for older people, and that was the pattern for Erie in 2014 as well as for the U.S. and the state. Poverty tends to be a greater problem among children than among senior citizens. In 2014, the poverty rate for Erie residents under 18 years of age was 22.7% (but down 5.7 percentage points from 28.4% the year before.) For those aged 18 to 64, the rate was 16.0%, and for those 65 and older, the rate was only 8.6%. Although childhood poverty also tended to be worse among the 13 peers, Erie's 22.7% rate was a bit above their average rate of 22.2%. At the other end of the age spectrum, Erie's senior rate of 8.6% was better than the peer average rate of 9.0% and the U.S. rate of 9.5%.

The Basics

This indicator measures the percentage of individuals in an area who are living below the poverty level, by age. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of an individual in poverty was an individual under 65 making an annual income of less than $12,119, or an individual over 65 making an annual income of less than $11,173. For a family of four, the poverty threshold was $23,834.

Why is this important?

Measuring poverty is important because it helps a community determine the proportion of the population that does not have the minimum level of resources which are adequate to meet basic needs. The poverty rate is one important indicator of the economic well-being of residents in an area.

The Details

From the U.S. Census Bureau:
Poverty statistics presented in American Community Survey (ACS) reports and tables adhere to the standards specified by the Office of Management and Budget in Statistical Policy Directive 14. The Census Bureau uses a set of dollar value thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty. Further, poverty thresholds for people living alone or with nonrelatives (unrelated individuals) and two-person families vary by age (under 65 years or 65 years and older).

If a family’s total income is less than the dollar value of the appropriate threshold, then that family and every individual in it are considered to be in poverty. Similarly, if an unrelated individual’s total income is less than the appropriate threshold, then that individual is considered to be in poverty. The poverty thresholds do not vary geographically. They are updated annually to allow for changes in the cost of living (inflation factor) using the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Poverty status was determined for all people except institutionalized people, people in military group quarters, people in college dormitories, and unrelated individuals under 15 years old. These groups were excluded from the numerator and denominator when calculating poverty rates.

Since the ACS is a continuous survey, people respond throughout the year. Because the income items specify a period covering the last 12 months, the appropriate poverty thresholds are determined by multiplying the base-year poverty thresholds (1982) by the monthly inflation factor based on the 12 monthly CPIs and the base-year CPI.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator has no subcategories.

Peer Areas

These variables include data on all 13 of the standard peer areas, along with U.S. and PA data.




U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey: Data (One-year estimates)

Other Related Data

Latest Erie Data from the Economic Research Institute of Erie, at the Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend

Additional Studies and Research

Alemayehu Bishaw and Sharon Stern, “Evaluation of Poverty Estimates: A Comparison of the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey,” Poverty and Health Statistics Branch, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, U.S. Census Bureau, June 15, 2006.

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