Erie Vital Signs

Poverty and Self-Sufficiency : Poverty Rate by Educational Level of Attainment

Recent Performance

This trend is positive except for college grads.

As might be expected, poverty rates fall as the level of educational attainment rises. Those with bachelor's degrees or higher have significantly lower poverty rates than those who did not finish high school, consistently across our peer group.

In Erie in 2014, 8.3% of those with bachelor's degrees or higher fell below the poverty standard, while the rate for those who did not finish high school was 30.5%. A similar pattern occurred for the U.S. (4.7% vs. 27.8%) and Pennsylvania (3.9% vs. 26.0%).

The poverty rate fell between 2013 and 2014 for all education groups except, curiously, those with a bachelor's degree or higher, where it actually rose from 5.3% to 8.3%. This is by far the highest poverty rate for that group in Erie since the data started n 2005. And Erie was not alone in this; the poverty rate also rose for college grads and higher in five of Erie's peers: Boulder, Flint, Peoria, Roanoke, and Spartanburg--a quite diverse group of metro areas .

The Basics

This indicator measures the percentage of individuals in an area who are living below the poverty level, by level of educational attainment. 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 data on poverty by level of educational attainment suggest that additional years of schooling can potentially be a powerful force in helping to reduce the incidence of poverty.

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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