National Poverty Rate Rises; Md. Rate May Follow


WASHINGTON (Sept. 16, 2010)—The nation's poverty rate ticked up last year, according to figures released Thursday, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Maryland's figures will follow suit, experts said.

In 2008, Maryland had one of the lowest child poverty rates in the country, said Laura Beavers, national KIDS COUNT coordinator at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. But the state ranked 25th in terms of overall child well-being, according to the foundation's data, Beavers said.

"The poverty rate tells one piece of the story, not the whole story," Beavers said.

But the overall poverty rate remains one important indicator of the welfare of the country, she said.

The national poverty rate increased to 14.3 percent in 2009, compared to 13.2 percent in 2008, the new Census Bureau numbers show.

Although the Census Bureau will not release state data until late September, the poverty rate in the South, which includes Maryland, increased from 14.3 percent to 15.7 percent. Based on the previous year's data and regional data, Maryland's poverty rate is also likely to increase.

"Seeing a rise in the poverty rate is not unexpected," said Sandy Monck, senior vice president of impact strategies at the United Way of Central Maryland in Baltimore. She said she has seen an increase in people calling for United Way services.

However, Maryland's poverty rate is usually well below the national rate. In 2008, the state's rate was the second lowest in the country at 8.1 percent, according to the Census Bureau's most recent data. New Hampshire had a 7.6 percent poverty rate.

The poverty line varies by family size. The average family size in Maryland is about three people, according to 2006-2008 American Community Survey data. A family of three making less than $17,098 in 2009 is below the poverty line, the Census Bureau reported.

About 5 percent of Maryland families are living below the poverty level, according to 2006-2008 data.

Maryland's median household income was $70,005 in 2008, according to Census Bureau data. The South did not show noteworthy differences in median household income from 2008 to 2009, but income did decline noticeably in the Mid-West and West.

The office of Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has been promoting the earned income tax credit for people who are around the poverty level, spokesman Joseph Shapiro said. This includes redoing tax forms so that everyone who is eligible for the tax credit receives it.

"In general," Shapiro said, "the comptroller has been expressing concern about the effect the recession's had on Maryland families."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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