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One in five Arizonans in poverty

New figures Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau show nearly 1.4 million Arizonans who were in households earning less than the federal poverty level. That computes out to 21.2 percent. By contrast, the national figure is approaching 43.6 million, just 14.3 percent. That poverty level is based on family size. The Census Bureau uses a threshold for a family of four at $21,954, with smaller numbers for smaller families and bigger ones for larger clans. The numbers include cash income but not one-time capital gains. They also exclude government help like food stamps. That makes a difference: The Census Bureau figures that if the value of that aid were added to income figures, the number of people nationwide listed as living in poverty would be 3.6 million less. The new reports shows that, even with a nationwide recession, there is an increasing disparity between Arizonans and those living everywhere else. In 2007, for example, before the economy tanked, 13 other states had higher poverty rates than Arizona's 14.3 percent. By 2008 the percentage of Arizonans living in poverty rose to 18 percent and only three states had higher numbers. And the current 21.2 percent number -- second worst in the nation -- is approaching a level nearly 50 percent above the national average.

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