KY Policy Blog

Census: Number of Poor Kentuckians Remains High, Incomes Stagnant

By Jason Bailey
September 19, 2013

Poverty in Kentucky remained high in 2012 and median income in the state is 6.4 percent below its pre-recession level, according to data released today by the Census Bureau. The numbers show that Kentuckians are continuing to feel the pain of the recession and indicate that the state should be doing more to equip Kentuckians with the tools they need to move out of poverty.

19.4 percent of Kentuckians lived in poverty in 2012 compared to 17.3 percent in 2007. The state’s median annual income, adjusted for inflation, decreased from $44,591 in 2007 to $41,724 in 2012. There was no statistically significant change in the overall poverty rate or median income in Kentucky from 2011 to 2012.

However, the poverty rate for African Americans jumped from 32.7 percent in 2011 to 36.3 percent in 2012. African Americans in Kentucky have been hit particularly hard by the recession, and the numbers suggest that the recovery is not reaching them.

Four years after the official end of the recession, times are still very hard for Kentucky individuals and families. There aren’t enough jobs, and many of those Kentuckians with jobs aren’t seeing their paychecks grow.

By disinvesting in the public services that benefit all of us—like education, health and human services— the state takes money out of local economies and makes it even harder for families’ lives to get better. Over the last seven budget years, Kentucky lawmakers have deeply cut funding for schools, child care, mental health, community colleges and other key services that build a strong economy. Continued failures to invest in these important services will hurt Kentucky’s economic recovery and make it harder for the state’s low-income families to climb into the middle class.

State policymakers will face serious challenges in January when it’s time to craft Kentucky’s next two-year budget. Our state tax system doesn’t generate enough revenue to pay for essential public services. Comprehensive tax reform that raises new revenue in a fair and sustainable way is key to investing in a brighter future for Kentucky.

The Census Bureau data also showed that:

  • Median income for non-Hispanic whites in Kentucky is 62 percent higher than median income for African Americans.
  • Median income for non-Hispanic whites in Kentucky dropped 6.1 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2007 and 2012, while median income for African Americans in the state dropped 9.3 percent.
  • 26.2 percent of Kentucky’s children live in poverty.

The data comes from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), an annual survey of demographic and economic data that has replaced the traditional long-form portion of the decennial census.

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