Poverty on the rise in Louisiana

The poverty rate in Louisiana – already among the nation’s highest – continues to climb, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The percentage of people without health coverage is also on the rise, according to data from the Current Population Survey (CPS).

While more complete figures won’t be available until Thursday, analysis of two-year average survey data shows Louisiana is one of a handful of states that saw a statistically significant increase in poverty between 2009-2010 and 2011-2012, even as the national poverty rate remained essentially unchanged. Most states either saw their poverty rate decrease or stay largely the same over that time period, while Louisiana saw the biggest increase.

(Due to sampling size, the Census Bureau recommends comparing two-year averages of CPS data when looking at state trends).

Louisiana poverty rate on the rise, national rate flat.

Around 1 in 5 Louisianans had income below the poverty line ($11,720 for an individual, and $18,284 for a family of three) in 2012, compared to a national poverty rate of 15 percent. The Census Bureau also reported that on a regional basis, poverty remains highest in the Southern states.


It is important to note the state-level data released Tuesday is preliminary. While the CPS is the official source for national poverty and health insurance data, the Census Bureau and other researchers recommend using data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to report on year-to-year changes in state-specific poverty and health insurance figures. The ACS figures are more comprehensive, and may differ from CPS figures due to different methodologies.


But while specific numbers are preliminary, today’s data does reveal trends in poverty and health insurance coverage that spell trouble for Louisiana’s families. Alongside an increase in poverty, the data indicates the number of Louisianans who lack health coverage also grew. Around 20 percent of the state’s population remains uninsured.


By comparison, nationally the share of uninsured Americans dropped slightly to 15.4 from 15.7 percent, mostly due to a provision in the health care reform law that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan until their 26th birthday, as well as continued gains in children’s health coverage as the availability of Medicaid and CHIP offset private insurance losses.


Louisiana’s uninsured rate is likely to decrease in 2014 as new tax credits become available to help many moderate-income families buy private health coverage through new insurance exchanges. But Louisiana will miss out on an opportunity to cover an additional 400,000 low-income adults, who would be eligible for Medicaid insurance that state leaders have refused to accept.


The Louisiana Budget Project will provide a more in-depth look at statewide poverty, income and health coverage trends following the release of updated American Community Survey data on Thursday.



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