Erie Vital Signs

Poverty and Self-Sufficiency : Poverty Rate by Race & Ethnicity

Recent Performance

The poverty rate fell for all of Erie's racial groups except multi-racial people in 2014, although the gap between the least poor group and the most poor group fell only slightly.

Poverty rates vary significantly across race groups. While the overall poverty rate was 16.3% in Erie in 2014, the rate varied from a low of 14.2% for non-Hispanic whites to a high of 44.2% for those who identified themselves as multi-racial. This 30 point gap between the highest-poverty group and the lowest-poverty group is not unusual for Erie in recent years. In fact, it was as high as 44.7 points in 2007.

In 2014, among Erie's minority groups Asians had the lowest poverty rate at 20.6%, followed by African Americans at 27.3%, then Hispanics at 39.8% and multi-racial residents at 44.2%. This pattern is not typical compared to U.S. pattern in 2014, where the rate for Asians (12.5%) was below that for non-Hispanics whites (12.8%), and multi-racial people had a lower poverty rate (20.0%) than Hispanics (24.1%) and African Americans (27.0%). We note also that the poverty rate was higher in Erie for every racial group than it was in the United States as a whole.

Although the poverty rate rose in 2014 for multi-racial residents from 39.6% to 44.2%, it fell for all other race groups in Erie.

The Basics

This indicator measures the percentage of individuals in an area who are living below the poverty level, by race and ethnicity. 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

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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