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Chapter 3. Employment-Related Characteristics

Indicator 31. Poverty

The overall percentage of persons living in poverty fluctuated between 1980 and 2009, but showed no consistent pattern of change. Between 2000 and 2009, however, the overall poverty rate increased from 11 to 14 percent. For youth and young adults ages 15- to 24-years-old, the poverty rate increased from 14 to 20 percent between 2000 and 2009. This increase occurred for both male (from 12 to 17 percent) and female (from 16 to 22 percent) 15- to 24-year-olds between 2000 and 2009.

When looking at differences by sex for the years shown between 1980 and 2009, the percentage of male youth and young adults living in poverty was lower than the percentage of female youth and young adults. In 2009, about 17 percent of males between the ages of 15 and 24 were living in poverty, compared with 22 percent of females.

The percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds living in poverty varied by race/ethnicity in 2009. A higher percentage of Blacks (31 percent) than Hispanics (27 percent), Asians/Pacific Islanders (21 percent), and Whites (14 percent) in the age range were living in poverty. In addition, a higher percentage of American Indians/Alaska Natives (29 percent) were living in poverty than were Whites. A higher percentage of Whites and Blacks in the same age group were living in poverty in 2009 than in 2000 (14 vs. 10 percent and 31 vs. 25 percent, respectively). The poverty rate for Hispanic 15- to 24-year-olds increased from 22 percent in 2002 to 27 percent in 2009, while the poverty rates of Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native 15- to 24-year-olds did not change measurably over the same time period.

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31a. Snapshot: Poverty by Educational Attainment

In order to examine poverty rates by educational attainment, this snapshot focuses on 18- to 24-year-olds. In 2009, about 21 percent of young adults were living in poverty. In general, lower poverty rates were associated with higher levels of education. For instance, a higher percentage of young adults without a high school diploma (31 percent) were living in poverty than were those who had completed high school (24 percent) and those who had earned a bachelor's or higher degree (14 percent).

This pattern generally persisted across sex and race/ethnicity. For male 18- to 24-year-olds, about 24 percent without a high school diploma were living in poverty, compared with 15 percent with at least a high school diploma. Similarly, females with higher levels of educational attainment had lower poverty rates than those with less education. When looking at race/ethnicity, Black and Hispanic young adults with at least a high school diploma had lower poverty rates than those who did not finish high school. For instance, about 43 percent of Black young adults without a high school diploma were living in poverty, compared to 34 percent of Black young adults whose highest level of educational attainment was high school completion.

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