State’s poverty numbers increase

SEATTLE — More people were living in poverty in Washington state in 2013 than in 2012, even as the numbers remained steady across the nation, according to new figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nearly 970,000 Washington residents, or 14.1 percent, were in poverty in 2013, compared to about 915,000, or 13.5 percent, in 2012, according to the American Community Survey that surveyed people between January and December 2013.

Washington, along with New Mexico and New Jersey, were among the three states that saw increases in both the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2012 and 2013.

“Although our poverty has edged up a little, we’re still below the national numbers,” said Jennifer Romich, director of the West Coast Poverty Center at the University of Washington and associate professor of social work.

In 2013, about 48.8 million people — or 15.8 percent of the U.S. population — had income below the poverty level.

A family of four is considered to be living in poverty if it brings in less than $23,830 in a year. A person is considered to be living in poverty if he or she makes less than $11,890.

“The recovery that we’re seeing in our economy is not being shared with low-income workers, not being shared across all income groups,” Elena Hernandez, a policy analyst with Washington State Budget &Policy Center, a progressive organization based in Seattle.

She said the data underscore the need for the state to do more to help people struggling with basics, such as housing, food, child care and transportation.

While most large metro areas saw little change, the region that includes Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue experienced a jump in the both the number of people in poverty and the poverty rate in 2013.

In 2013, there were 12.6 percent in poverty in the greater Seattle area, which is far below the state and national average but higher than the 11.7 percent in poverty in 2012.

By all accounts the mainstream Seattle economic is doing well, especially the tech industry, but that’s not pulling people of out of poverty, Romich said. “The income gap is growing,” she added.

The median household income in the greater Seattle region in 2013 was $67,479, ranking it the fifth-highest in the nation. The median household income, however, remained statistically unchanged from the year before.

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