At 11.3 %, poverty rates in Utah are down only slightly over the past year according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. It’s also still higher than the 9.6 % of Utahns at the poverty level before the recession began in 2008.
Matthew Weinstein is the state priorities director at Voices for Utah Children. He says the latest data shows the continuation of a troubling trend.
“We have seen this pattern over the last several economic cycles where each successive economic cycle our poverty rate go higher and they don’t come down to where they were before and that’s something that we need to be concerned about.”
Weinstein says children are hit even harder by poverty with nearly 13 % of that population affected. That amounts to about 116,000 Utah kids living in poverty. But he says there’s good news in that Utah does well on the Gini index which measures income equality.
“That is something that we can really feel good about. That we have done a good job historically of helping low income families climb their way into the middle class; of reducing income equality.”
Weinstein recommends a renewed effort by lawmakers to create a state Earned Income Tax Credit to help lower income earners to keep more of the wages from their paychecks.