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Over 800,000 Alabamians live Below Poverty Line; sixth poorest state in the nation

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By Eric Taunton
The Birmingham Times

Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the U.S. and more than 800,00 residents live below the federal poverty line, which is higher than the national average of 14 percent, according to a recently released Alabama Poverty Sheet.

Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit organization committed to advocating for better living conditions for Alabamians, released its annual report that 17.2 percent of Alabamians live below the federal poverty line, which is higher than the national average of 14 percent. However, there was some good news: In 2016, Alabama’s poverty rate was 18.5 percent, being nearly 900,000 people, which means there has been a slight decrease in Alabama’s poverty rate.

“It is encouraging to see that fewer Alabamians live in poverty year-over-year, but we still have 800,000 friends and neighbors who face significant barriers to prosperity,” said Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible. “It is also deeply concerning to see that the median household income for people of color in Alabama is roughly $15,000-$20,000 lower than the median household income for white citizens. We must advocate for equitable systems that will dismantle poverty and promote prosperity for all Alabamians.”

Even though fewer people live in poverty, “it continues to impact every corner of the state, and 15 of Alabama’s 67 counties have a poverty rate higher than 25 percent,” Scott said. “Another eight counties have a poverty rate higher than 30 percent.”

Just reducing poverty isn’t enough and more needs to be done with workforce development, she said. “That’s why we are so concerned about Alabama’s lagging household income,” Scott said. “We have got to figure out how to develop talent and economic opportunity so that every Alabamian has a real shot at a middle class life.”

Findings from the 2018 Alabama Poverty Data Sheet show:

  • Jefferson County’s poverty rate is 15.3 percent
  • Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the U.S., and 17.2 percent of Alabamians live below the federal poverty line – a noticeably larger percentage than the national average of 14 percent. The federal poverty line is $24,257 for a family of four.
  • At a county level, 15 of Alabama’s 67 counties have a poverty rate higher than 25 percent. Eight counties have a poverty rate higher than 30 percent.
  • In Alabama, 250,000 children live in poverty. Also, the overall child food insecurity rate is 22.5 percent, which is higher than the national average of 17.5 percent.
  • Alabama’s median household income is $46,309, which is $11,308 less than the national median of $57,617.
  • Food insecurity is another top concern for the state. Alabama has a notably high food insecurity rate at 17.7 percent.