Florida College Towns See Inflated Poverty Rates

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

By: Bailey Myers
July 29, 2013

Tallahassee FL - New numbers tonight put Florida's Capitol City near the top in the state when it comes to poverty. Those numbers were just released by the US Census, and they may not be as accurate as they seem.

The poverty rate includes every person within the population. In Leon County, the poverty rate according to the US Census is 22.3%. Here's the issue: College students are included in that data, causing a problem in the estimate.

FSU student, Kendra Jones: "Having a break in-between classes and then going to work for six hours." Working six hours a couple of days a week is not a full time gig for Jones.

Jones plans to be a percentage of students graduating with her bachelors degree. Currently, however she's part of another number... The poverty rate rate for Leon County.

That's because Jones, like so many other college students, makes below poverty threshold considered in the US Census data.

Chief Research Council Florida Tax Watch Robert Weissert: "Wouldn't there be a difference from a community that does have a college or university in it and one that doesn't because University students tend to have incomes that would put them at the poverty lines because they are not employed so their income is basically zero."

Here in Leon County there are about 12,000 FAMU students, 14,000 Tallahassee Community College Students, and 40,000 FSU students. That means about 66,000 people in Leon County's population are students and may not have a consistent source of income.

With that many students, it's no wonder that when you take them out of the equation the poverty rate in Leon County decreases by 11.5 percent.

Jones later added, "I don't think it makes sense because as long as you're a college student, you are going to be considered beneath the poverty level with your income."

Leon County was one of two counties in the state of Florida to have a large concentration of college students considered aiding to an increase in their poverty rate. The other county was Alachua County-- where the University of Florida is located.

Associated Press Release


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Talk about your struggling college students.

A new report released Monday by the U.S. Census shows that two Florida cities with large concentrations of college students experience big declines in poverty rates when college students aren't counted.

The poverty rate in Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, declines 15.5 percentage points when college students not living with relatives are excluded. In Leon County, home of Florida State University, the dip is 11.5 percentage points.

Both cities have poverty rates significantly higher than the national average of 15.2 percent.

Including college students, more than a third of all residents in Gainesville live below the poverty line. In Tallahassee, it's under a third of all residents.

The report suggests students artificially inflate poverty counts.

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