Census report shows Georgia poverty increase

Georgia had 300,000 more people fall into poverty from 2008 to 2009, a 20-percent increase that exceeds the national average, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released today.

The state ranked second behind Mississippi, according to an annual report called Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. Last year Georgia trailed six other states.

The figures show Georgia "in the teeth of the recession," said Harvey Newman, a professor in the Andrew Young School of Public Policy at Georgia State University.

Newman said the single biggest factor for the poverty rate was job loss. He also said the new poor extend beyond the homeless into people who had been working and were middle class. More people are unemployed and have been unemployed for longer periods. On top of that, the state is feeling the effect of the real-estate collapse ripple through other employment sectors, he said.

There were 1.77 million people below the federal poverty line in 2009, according to the census figures. For a two-parent family of four, the national poverty level is $21,756.

Georgia has experienced a statistically significant increase in poverty, said Trudi Renwick, a census statistics worker.

The census estimates are based on a limited state sample of 4,610 Georgians. More detailed statistics are expected in two weeks. To lessen the margin of error, census officials recommended comparing 2006-2007 figures to 2008-2009 to estimate the state's poverty rate. Over that time, Georgia's poverty rate jumped from 13.1 percent to 16.9 percent.

The nation's poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008.