What does this measure?
The share of residents with incomes below the poverty level, and at various proportions of the poverty level (below half, double the poverty level, etc.). Poverty thresholds vary by family composition and year. In 2021, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $27,479.
Why is this important?
The percentage of people living in or near poverty is a measure of the overall economic health of a region. It also indicates the level of need for social and government supports.
How is our county doing?
In 2017-21, 9% of residents had incomes below the poverty level, including 4% with incomes less than half of the poverty level. These individuals are considered to live in extreme poverty. Another 13% of county residents had incomes between 100% and 199% of the poverty level, 12% had incomes between 200% and 299% of poverty, and 65% had incomes above that level. This was essentially unchanged since 2012-16. That distribution of incomes was very similar to the state and better than the nation, where 13% of residents were below the poverty line, 17% between 100% and 199%, 16% between 200% and 299%, and 55% above that level.
The cities of Lawrence and Lynn had the highest percentages of residents living below the poverty level at 19% and 14%, respectively, including 6% and 7% of residents in extreme poverty. Since 2012-16, poverty decreased 8 percentage points in Lawrence and 6 points in Lynn.
How do we compare to similar counties?
Though Essex County had the highest percentage of residents with incomes under the poverty level in 2017-21, at 9%, the comparison counties were all very similar, with Middlesex, MA, Lake, IL, and Westchester, NY at 8%. There were slightly higher proportions of residents at the upper end - at or above the 300% of poverty - in Middlesex (74%) and Westchester (71%), while Lake (68%) was fairly similar to Essex.
Notes about the data
The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The bureau combined 5 years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. However, because the information came from a survey, the samples responding to the survey were not always large enough to produce reliable results, especially in small geographic areas. CGR has noted on data tables the estimates with relatively large margins of error. Estimates with 3 asterisks have the largest margins, plus or minus 50% or more of the estimate. Two asterisks mean plus or minus 35%-50%, and one asterisk means plus or minus 20%-35%. For all estimates, the confidence level is 90%, meaning there is 90% probability the true value (if the whole population were surveyed) would be within the margin of error (or confidence interval). The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. Data for this indicator are expected to be released annually in December.