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North Dakota’s Poverty Rate Unchanged

The percentage of North Dakota children ages 0 to 17 living in poverty was estimated at 14.1 percent in 2009.

An estimated 11.7 percent of North Dakotans were living in poverty in 2009, a rate that has remained relatively unchanged during the past decade. This proportion is equivalent to approximately 73,000 people in North Dakota who were impoverished in 2009.

“To place this number into context, we would need three Fargodomes to seat all those who are impoverished in North Dakota,” says Richard Rathge, North Dakota State Data Center director. The center is at North Dakota State University.

Poverty thresholds are updated annually by the U.S. Census Bureau and vary by family size and number of children. In 2009, the poverty threshold for one person was $10,956 and for a family of four with two children under the age of 18 was $21,756.

This month’s “Population Bulletin,” a monthly publication from the North Dakota State Data Center at North Dakota State University, focuses on poverty estimates released from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program through the U.S. Census Bureau. SAIPE provides annual estimates of the number and percentage of adults and children living in poverty.

These estimates are based on a sample of households. Due to the relatively small population base in North Dakota and the need to keep the costs of data collection manageable, the sample sizes for the state are relatively small, which increases the likelihood of error. Confidence intervals are calculated to account for this sampling error.

For example, while SAIPE estimates indicate that 11.7 percent of all North Dakotans were living in poverty in 2009, one should use a range of 11.2 to 12.3 percent to be 90 percent confident of the true poverty level.

Certain populations in North Dakota continue to struggle with higher than average poverty rates. Children have a greater likelihood of living in poverty than the general public. The percentage of North Dakota children ages 0 to 17 living in poverty was estimated at 14.1 percent in 2009. The percentage of children ages 0 to 4 living in poverty was 18 percent, and the percentage of children ages 5 to 17 living in families below poverty was 11.9 percent.

In addition, poverty rates in North Dakota were notably higher in Native American reservation areas, with Sioux, Benson and Rolette counties having more than one in four people living in poverty in 2009. Sioux County had the 20th highest poverty rate among all 3,143 counties in the nation.

When making important decisions based on these data, one needs to be mindful of the confidence intervals, which are 13 to 15.2 percent for North Dakota children ages 0 to 17, 16 to 20 percent for ages 0 to 4, and 10.6 to 13.2 percent for ages 5 to 17.

Nationally, 14.3 percent of all people were impoverished in 2009. Twenty percent of the children ages 0 to 17 were living in poverty and 23.2 percent of children ages 0 to 4 were impoverished. The 90 percent confidence intervals are 14.3 to 14.4 percent for all people, 19.8 to 20.2 percent for ages 0 to 17 and 23 to 23.5 percent for ages 0 to 4.

Since the 1960s, poverty has been determined largely based on a family’s food budget, with no accounting for child-care, health insurance or other expenses families face today.

Efforts to update the measure have been ongoing. In early January 2011, the Census Bureau released alternative measures of poverty based on the recommendations of Congress and the National Academy of Sciences.

The purpose of these alternative measures is to show the effect on income and poverty measures when factoring in a range of poverty thresholds and different assumptions about income sources (such as subsidized housing or free or reduced-price school lunches).

For more information on these alternative poverty measures, visit to see how they compare with the SAIPE data presented in this publication.

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Feb. 1, 2011

Source:Richard Rathge, (701) 231-8621,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
Poverty Estimates by County Preview
(Poverty Estimates by County.pdf - 1.19 Mb)
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