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Census data reveals poverty rates in Chattahoochee Valley

About 150 volunteers served 1,000 meals during Thanksgiving day festivities last year at Valley Rescue Mission . The annual event is drawing an increasing number of women and families with young children.
About 150 volunteers served 1,000 meals during Thanksgiving day festivities last year at Valley Rescue Mission . The annual event is drawing an increasing number of women and families with young children. rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

Poverty rates in Muscogee County remained stagnant in the wake of the Great Recession, indicating an economy still making a slow comeback, according to new data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The statistics were revealed in the American Community Survey, which provided five-year data sets for 2005 to 2009 and 2010 to 2014.

In 2014, the poverty rate in Muscogee was around 20 percent, compared to about 19 percent in 2009, when the country was just pulling out of the recession. During the same period, the median household income went from $40,549 to $41,362.

Twenty-five percent of the county's black families lived below the poverty line, compared to 8 percent of white families, and 19 percent of Hispanic families. There were a total 48,401 children living under such circumstances, representing about 30 percent of the county's 18 and under population.

In Georgia, the poverty level for a family of five was a household income of $35,513 per year or $2,959 per month.

Benjamin Blair, director of the Butler Center for Business and Economic Research at Columbus State University, said the changes in the poverty rate are statistically insignificant, but they reveal the lingering impact of the recession.

"I think the recovery has been fairly flat," he said. "There has not been much of a change at the lower end as far as poverty goes."

However, there are certain sectors that are doing better than others, he said, most of those jobs requiring a college education.

"The financial service industry, which includes insurance, banks and financial institutions, those are recovering a little faster than other industries," he said, adding to the list technical and other professional jobs.

In surrounding counties, the changes in poverty rates were mixed.

In Harris County, the poverty rate dropped from about 10 percent in 2009 to about 9 percent in 2014. In Russell County, Ala., the poverty rate was at about 22 percent in both 2009 and 2014. And in Lee County, it went from 20 percent in 2009 to almost 24 percent in 2014.

The only significant change was in Chattahoochee County where the poverty rate dropped from about 16 percent in 2009 to 9 percent in 2014.

"Chattahoochee County had a reduction in poverty almost across the board," Blair said. "They have a lower percentage of all families in poverty and a lower percentage of families with female householder with no husband present than they did in 2009. And there was a reduction in the poverty rate of children under five that was pretty significant."

Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.

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