PROVIDENCE – In 2012, 13.7 percent of Rhode Islanders, or close to 139,000 people, lived in households with income below the federal poverty level, according to the latest figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
The Ocean State’s poverty rate ranked No. 29 in the country (No. 1 being the highest) and No. 2 in New England, below Maine’s reported poverty rate of 14.7 percent, with the federal poverty level being defined in 2012 as an income of $19,090 for a family of three.
The 2012 data reflected racial disparities in Rhode Island, with 33 percent of Latinos reporting incomes below the poverty level in 2012. For African-Americans, the rate was 26.1 percent, while Asian-Americans experienced a poverty rate of 14 percent. The poverty rate among white households in 2012 was 9.4 percent.
Rhode Island’s poverty rate of 13.7 percent represented a slight drop from the 2011 figure of 14.7 percent, even as median household income fell $200 to $54,554 in 2012.
Median household income in Rhode Island ranked No. 19 in the country and No. 4 in New England, greater than in Vermont and Maine.
Nationally, the poverty rate in 2012 held steady at 15.9 percent, while median household income dropped to $51,371, a $200 decrease from 2011.
Both national and state median incomes remain below 2007 pre-recession levels
In Rhode Island, 6.4 percent of those surveyed were considered to be living in deep poverty, meaning they reported household incomes less than half of the federal poverty level.
The percent of Rhode Islanders with low income - defined as twice the federal poverty level – reached 30.6 percent in 2012.
“Stagnant income and unchanged poverty rates underscore the need for Rhode Island to do more to improve the economic vitality of our state and its residents, especially our African-American and Latino neighbors,” said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute, in a statement about the Census Bureau data. “Rhode Island should make educating its current and future workforce the cornerstone of its economic development strategy.”