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Front Page » November 29, 2005 » Local News » Carbon County, rural Utah face economic challenges
Published 3,597 days ago

Carbon County, rural Utah face economic challenges

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Utah's overall poverty rate registers at less than 10 percent. In addition, data compiled in the 2000 Census indicate that 5.8 percent of Utahns older than 65 years of age have incomes below the poverty threshold compared to 9.4 percent of the state's overall population.

However, poverty rates are significantly lower for seniors residing at locations across Utah than for the population in general.

In Carbon County and rural Utah, making a living has been a challenging task and poverty trends have varied throughout the decades.

Proximity to metropolitan areas along the Wasatch Front represents an important factor in determining a rural county's poverty rate, notes the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

For example, Summit has seen poverty decline from 12.8 percent to 5.4 percent in the last 40 years, while the county's population has increased 408 percent.

Box Elder, Cache, Juab, Morgan, Tooele and Wasatch counties also exhibit the trend.

Utah's rural eastern counties face more complicated economic challenges, points out the department of workforce services.

Lacking the population mass and ready access to major transportation arteries, numerous rural areas depend on single industries prone to boom and bust cycles.

Although Carbon, Emery, Duchesne and Uintah witnessed falling poverty rates and booming economies in the 1970s energy crisis, the counties watched the gains evaporate in ensuing years, continues the department of workforce services.

Because all of Utah's counties have unique demographic and economic realities, poverty statistics can be misleading, explains the department of workforce services. For example, areas with a high proportion of inhabitants older than 65 years old can see poverty rates increase or remain elevated. The population of Washington County - which includes a high number of retirees and college students - has grown 777 percent in 40 years, while the poverty rate declined slowly to 11.2 percent.

Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a census of the United States population. The complete count is used to reapportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states. All states have at least two seats and the remaining congressional districts have roughly equal populations.

For decades, the census consisted of two parts. The short form, filled out by all households and individuals, counts the population. The long form obtains demographic, housing, economic and social characteristics. The long form was collected from a sample of the U.S. population, with about one in six households or individuals providing information.

However, the long form information becomes outdated within a few years. After the 2000 census, an annual survey was started to replace the questions. The American Community Survey collects information from a random sample of households in all communities in the country. An individual household has about one chance in 40 of participating in the ACS and no address will be selected more than once in five years. Under the law, households selected are required to answer the survey as part of the census.

The survey is conducted throughout the year, collecting information from one-twelfth of the selected addresses monthly. Beginning in 2006, annual estimates of demographic, economic, housing and social characteristics will be published for all counties and cities with a population of 65,000 or more. By combining sampled households during three- and five-year periods, annual estimates for small communities will become available by 2010.

Federal, state and local governments apply the information collected in the survey to manage programs, evaluate services and comply with requirements stipulated in law. Businesses, private organizations and individuals also use of the community-based statistics for a host of marketing, planning and service delivery activities.

In 1964, the management and budget office directed the U.S. Social Security Administration to develop a poverty definition to be used by all federal agencies. At the core of the definition was the economy food plan, the least costly of four nutritionally adequate dietary guidelines designed by the agriculture department.

The SSA multiplied the cost of the economy food plan by three to obtain dollar figures for total family income. After adjustments for family size, the figures became the official poverty thresholds,. Minor revisions to the definition were introduced in 1969 and 1981. But for the most part, the federal government has retained the original methodology.

However, prices have risen dramatically since 1964. To reflect changes in the cost of living, poverty thresholds are adjusted annually using the consumer price index . The Census Bureau publishes thresholds or income cutoffs arranged in a two-dimensional matrix. The matrix consists of family size categorized by the presence and number of related children younger than 18 years old. Thresholds are also determined for unrelated individuals.

Income must be measured to determine poverty status and the Census Bureau adds up the money for the family or individual. Income includes before-tax dollars from employment earnings, retirement benefits, Social Security, public assistance, interest, child support, etc. Non-cash benefits like food stamps or housing subsidies are not included in the income total. Capital gains and/or losses are also excluded.

Once income is determined, it is compared to the appropriate threshold for that family/individual. If the family's income falls below the appropriate poverty threshold, all family members will be considered to be in poverty.

Some groups of people do not receive a poverty determination. For example, unrelated individuals like foster children younger than the age of 15 or folks in institutional group quarters such as nursing homes and prisons, college dormitories and military barracks do not receive a poverty determination.

Poverty continues to impact the United States. But improvements have been made since the federal government started tracking rates in 1959 when nearly one-quarter of the country's population was classified in poverty. Anti-poverty policies exerted a positive effect and the rate dropped to approximately 12 percent in 1974. The most recent 2004 measurement places U.S. poverty at 12.7 percent of the American population.

But the U.S. is culturally multifaceted and poverty is not an equal opportunity condition. American families headed by married couples have a poverty rate of 5.5 percent. Single parents, on the other hand, paint a contrast. Families with a male householder have a poverty rate of 13.5 percent. Families with a female householder have a more striking rate of 28.4 percent.

Whites have the lowest rate at 10.5 percent, followed by Asians at 10.6 percent. Poverty levels for American Indians and Alaska Natives register at 24.3 percent, for blacks at 24.4 percent and Hispanics at 22.1 percent.

A band of rates poverty rates of 15 percent or higher stretches across the south-central portion of the nation from New Mexico to Alabama. Lower rates extend across the middle of the country from Nevada to Iowa and Minnesota. A pocket of lower poverty also exists in the northeast corridor from Virginia to New Hampshire.

Poverty rose during recessions in the 1980s and 1990s. The rate came down during the technology boom of the late 1990s. But the stagflation years of the late 1970s produced some of the lowest poverty rates measured in the U.S. since 1959.

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