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Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008

NCES 2008-084
September 2008

1.6. Individuals, Families, and Children in Poverty


A larger percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native individuals and families live in poverty than White individuals and families. The American Indian/Alaska Native poverty rate is higher among families on reservations than among American Indian/Alaska Native families in other areas.

Figure 1.6a. Percentage of individuals living in poverty, by age group and race/ethnicity: 2006
Percentage of individuals living in poverty, by age group and race/ethnicity: 2006
NOTE: Following the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Directive 14, the Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to detect who is poor. If the total income for a family or unrelated individual falls below the relevant poverty threshold, then the family or unrelated individual is classified as being "below the poverty level." Race categories include persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2006.

Figure 1.6b. Percentage of family households with children under 18 living in poverty, by race/ ethnicity: 1989, 1999, 2003, and 2006
Percentage of family households with children under 18 living in poverty, by race/
ethnicity: 1989, 1999, 2003, and 2006
1 2003 and 2006 data are from the American Community Survey, rather than the Decennial Census. Use caution in comparing these percentages to those from 1989 and 1999.
NOTE: To define poverty, the Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition. A family, along with each individual in it, is considered poor if the family's total income is less than that family's threshold. The poverty thresholds do not vary geographically and are updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index. The official poverty definition counts money income before taxes and does not include capital gains and noncash benefits (such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps). Data are graphed using unrounded estimates while the value labels are rounded. Race categories include persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Decennial Census, 1990 and 2000; American Fact Finder, American Community Survey, 2003 and 2006.

Figure 1.6c. Percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native families living in poverty, by American Indian/ Alaska Native area: 1989 and 1999
Percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native families living in poverty, by American Indian/
Alaska Native area: 1989 and 1999
NOTE: Includes families with and without children under 18. Includes American Indians/Alaska Natives of Hispanic ethnicity. To define poverty, the Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition. A family, along with each individual in it, is considered poor if the family's total income is less than that family's threshold. The poverty thresholds do not vary geographically and are updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index. The official poverty definition counts money income before taxes and does not include capital gains and noncash benefits (such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps). The Census Bureau divides American Indian/Alaska Native areas into several categories. Federal American Indian reservations are areas that have been set aside by the United States for the use of tribes, the exterior boundaries of which are defined in the final tribal treaties, agreements, executive orders, federal statutes, secretarial orders, or judicial determinations. State reservations are areas established by individual states for tribes recognized by the state. Off-reservation trust lands (both federal and state) are areas for which the United States holds title in trust for the benefit of a tribe or for an individual Indian. The Census Bureau recognizes and tabulates data for reservations and offreservation trust lands because American Indian tribes have primary governmental authority over these lands. Oklahoma tribal statistical areas are statistical entities identified and delineated by the Census Bureau in consultation with federally recognized American Indian tribes in Oklahoma that do not currently have a reservation, but once had a reservation in that state. Alaska Native village statistical areas are statistical entities that represent the densely settled portion of Alaska Native villages, which constitute associations, bands, clans, communities, groups, tribes, or villages recognized pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1972. Tribal designated statistical areas are statistical entities identified and delineated for the Census Bureau by federally recognized American Indian tribes that do not currently have a federally recognized land base (reservation or off-reservation trust land). A tribal designated statistical area may not be located in more than one state, and it may not include area within any reservation, off-reservation, Oklahoma tribal, Alaska Native village, or state designated American Indian statistical areas. State designated American Indian statistical areas are entities for state recognized American Indian tribes that do not have a state recognized land base.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Decennial Census, 1990 and 2000.

Poverty poses a serious challenge to children's access to quality learning opportunities and their potential to succeed in school. Measuring poverty rates of individuals and of families highlights the patterns of children's poverty in the United States by identifying age groups, racial/ethnic groups, and types of families among which poverty is particularly prevalent. In this indicator, racial/ethnic groups include persons of Hispanic ethnicity.

One way to examine poverty is to look at poverty rates among individuals. The overall poverty rate for American Indians/Alaska Natives, including children, is higher than that for the total U.S. population. In 2006, the rates of poverty for American Indians/Alaska Natives, Blacks, and Hispanics in each age category were higher than those for Whites. In particular, 39 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native children under the age of 5 lived in poverty, which was nearly twice as high as the percentage for the total U.S. population (21 percent).

Another way to examine poverty is to look at poverty rates among families. In 2006, the poverty rate among American Indian/Alaska Native families1 with children under 18 (30 percent) was higher than that among all families with children under 18 (15 percent).

In all data years, and for all racial/ethnic groups, a larger percentage of families headed by females with no spouse were in poverty than married-couple families. The percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native female-headed families with children under 18 living in poverty was higher in 1989 than in 2006 (58 vs. 48 percent). 2 However, in 2006 the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native female-headed families living in poverty was higher than the percentage of female-headed families living in poverty in the total population (48 vs. 37 percent). In 2006, some 16 percent of married-couple American Indian/Alaska Native families with children under 18 lived in poverty, whereas 7 percent of married-couple families in the overall population that had children under 18 lived in poverty.

Poverty rates are especially high among American Indian/Alaska Native families who live in American Indian/Alaska Native areas. In 1989, the poverty rate among all American Indian/Alaska Native families living on reservations and on off-reservation trust lands was over one and a half times as high as the poverty rate for families in the total American Indian/ Alaska Native population (47 percent vs. 27 percent). By 1999, although both percentages had decreased and the gap had narrowed to 14 percentage points, a larger percentage of families on reservations lived in poverty. On the other hand, the rates of American Indian/Alaska Native families living in poverty in Oklahoma tribal statistical areas, Alaska Native village statistical areas, and state designated American Indian statistical areas were smaller than that of the total American Indian/Alaska Native population. Also, in tribal designated statistical areas, poverty rates for families did not differ significantly from the rates for American Indians/Alaska Natives in the total U.S. population.

View Table View Table 1.6a View Table View Table 1.6b View Table View Table 1.6c

1 A family is a group of two or more people who reside together and who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption. By contrast, a household includes all the people who occupy a housing unit as their usual place of residence. A "family household" contains at least one family within the household. References in this text refer to family households.
2A family is a group of two or more people who reside together and who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption. By contrast, a household includes all the people who occupy a housing unit as their usual place of residence. A "family household" contains at least one family within the household. References in this text refer to family households.

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