Virginia’s poverty rate drops to 10.1%, new data show

(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

By Sravan Gannavarapu/ Capital News Service

Virginia’s poverty rate has fallen by a full percentage point, to about 10%, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The proportion of Virginians living in poverty dropped from 11.1% in 2015-16 to 10.1% in 2017-18, the data showed. The state’s poverty rate remained well below the national rate, which averaged 12% for the most recent two-year period.

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a nonprofit think tank, is pushing for public policies it hopes will ensure that poverty in Virginia continues to decline. For example, the group is urging the state government to reform how it funds public schools, said Laura Goren, the institute’s research director.

“Right now, we are working to make sure that children in poverty have proper education by making sure that the state funding formula is better,” Goren said.

In 2017-18, Virginia tied with Rhode Island for having the 14th lowest poverty rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Census Bureau reported.

New Hampshire registered the lowest rate (6.6%) followed by Maryland and Utah at 7.8%. Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico had the nation’s highest poverty rates — almost 20%.

Poverty rates fells in Virginia and 40 other states as well as in Washington, D.C. In Tennessee, Delaware, Arizona and South Dakota, the rate fell by more than 3 percentage points.

Poverty rose in nine states. It went up the most (1.5 percentage points or more) in Nevada and Alaska, according to the Census Bureau.

Poverty status is based on income level and family size. In 2018, a person under 65 with an income less than $13,064 was considered poor. For a family of four including two children, the poverty cutoff was $25,465.

The poverty rates are estimates. They are based on surveys that have a margin of error.

Also Tuesday, the Census Bureau released data on the percentage of Americans who do not have health insurance. Nationwide, that percentage increased from 7.9% in 2017 to 8.5% in 2018.

Democrats blamed Republicans for the increase, saying the Trump administration and GOP have dissuaded Americans from purchasing insurance under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

“Thanks to the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, the nation’s uninsured rate grew significantly for the first time this decade,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, tweeted.

In Virginia, the percentage of residents without health insurance stayed the same at 8%. That number does not account for the expansion of Virginia’s Medicaid program, which began in January 2019.