American Community Survey Census Poverty Data
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY POVERTY REDUCTION TASK FORCE
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09:12 AM -- American Community Survey Census Poverty Data
Ms. Kate Watkins, Legislative Council Staff, and Ms. Lisa Piscopo, Colorado Children's Campaign (CCC), discussed American Community Survey (ACS) data. Ms. Watkins discussed the methodology of the ACS, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. She explained that the ACS is based on a period of time, rather than on one point in time, like the decennial census.
Ms. Piscopo presented an updated map of national poverty rates. She said that Colorado's poverty rate is still below the national average. She noted that the ACS is used to calculate the federal poverty guidelines. Ms. Piscopo commented on Colorado's growing rate of children living in poverty. She said that Colorado's rate of increase is the highest in the country, followed by Nevada. She pointed out that neighboring states do not show the same trend.
Ms. Piscopo discussed county-level poverty data. She made a distinction between the number of people in poverty and the poverty rate in each county. Ms. Piscopo described county-level data on children living in poverty and discussed the significance of the impact of poverty on children. Ms. Piscopo said that her presentation used poverty data from before the recession, since new data is not yet available. She presented a chart on the Colorado unemployment rate from 1999-2009 to illustrate what period of time is not covered by the most current poverty data. She noted that poverty is not equally distributed across Colorado. She offered conclusions on poverty trends in Colorado.
Representative Summers asked if any analysis had been done to discover reasons for Colorado's poverty trends. Ms. Piscopo discussed the analysis that CCC has done so far. She offered some examples of reasons for statewide variation, and indicated that the trends seem to be linked to overall economic issues. She noted that CCC will soon be releasing a report addressing fiscal policies and social service programs in Colorado compared to other states.
Representative Kagan asked if the task force is at the mercy of the economy in terms of its ability to reduce poverty. Ms. Piscopo responded that bad economic times make it more difficult to reduce poverty, but argued that progress is still possible. Representative Gagliardi asked if data existed related to the impact of free lunch and breakfast programs on poverty rates. She also asked for information concerning the use of food banks in Colorado. Ms. Piscopo noted that there are two components to poverty programs: some programs, such as free lunch and breakfast programs, mitigate the impacts of poverty, whereas other programs reduce the number of individuals living in poverty. Responding to follow-up questions from Representative Kefalas, Ms. Piscopo indicated that studies on free lunch and breakfast programs exist, but she does not have data regarding food banks.
Representative Kefalas asked for additional detail on the map of national poverty rates. He expressed an interest in learning about states that were able to reduce certain poverty rates, such as the rate of single-parent families living in poverty. Ms. Piscopo explained certain aspects of the statistical measures used to create the maps and discussed a reduction in child poverty in New Mexico. She noted that New Mexico has a higher base rate of child poverty, and stated that its different tax policies influence its ability to spend money on poverty programs. Ms. Watkins provided further detail concerning poverty rate calculations. Representative Kefalas shared additional comments related to poverty measures.