Reflecting on the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Percent Change in Black People in Poverty



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  • Incomes & Spending
    • Poverty
      • People in Poverty
        • By Race or Ethnicity

As the nation takes time to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. over the next few days, many are reflecting on where the nation stands in achieving some of the civil rights leader’s goals for the nation, particularly that of eradicating poverty and attaining economic equality. While there is no one way to measure economic advancement or equality, people interested in data related to poverty can find a number of helpful indicators in PolicyMap’s Money & Income tab.

According to the 2006-2010 American Community Survey (ACS), some parts of the country, particularly in the mid and southwest, have seen a decrease in the number of people living in poverty.

However, poverty clearly affects various populations differently. How are African American communities faring in this regard? The map below shows that the number of African American households living in poverty has decreased in some counties, particularly in the South, while increasing greatly in many others. Counties that had less than 10 African American households in either time period (2000 or 2006-2010) were suppressed and are labeled in the map as having “Insufficient Data.”

The following map reveals that the number of Hispanic households living in poverty has grown even more significantly over the decade. While some of this increase is likely a reflection of migratory patterns, it does not change the impact that the increase in impoverished Hispanic households has on families and communities.

Another ACS indicator, the percent of working families receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps), was recently added to PolicyMap and provides insight into the number of working families experiencing poverty throughout the country. The map below shows that in a large number of counties throughout the mid and southwest, more than 85% of working families (which the Census classifies as a family with at least one working family member) were receiving food stamps during the 2006-2010 time period.

Although a great deal of progress has been made since the civil rights era, racial and economic equality are clearly still very important issues facing our country.