This week, the US Census released new poverty and income figures for Rhode Island. Over one hundred forty thousand (141,035) Rhode Islanders lived in poverty in 2015. The poverty level for a family of four is $24,000. The census data also showed that median household income increased by over $3,000 in 2015 (from $54,959 in 2014 to $58,073 in 2015).
One in seven Rhode Islanders with income below the poverty level do not have enough to meet basic needs. Child Care Assistance, SNAP and health insurance coverage help working families make ends meet when earnings are not enough. Rhode Islanders unable to work on a temporary or permanent basis turn to cash assistance and other programs to protect themselves and their children. The new on-line integrated eligibility system can facilitate enrollment in these vital programs. But the new technology cannot replace the need for staff.
The Ocean State had the highest rate of its residents living in poverty among the New England states and ranked 26th among all states.
Today’s data also show that Rhode Island’s communities of color were much more likely to struggle to meet basic needs with nearly one in three Latinos, close to one in four African Americans and more than one in six Asians living in poverty. While the one-year census data does not permit sub-group analysis, multi-year analysis shows that South East Asians are not as economically secure as the Asian population as a whole (See analysis of five-year median wage data in “State of Working Rhode Island, 2015: Workers of Color”).
Median household incomes increased significantly in Rhode Island in 2015, up $3,114 from $54,959 in 2014 (inflation-adjusted) to $58,073 in 2015.
Rhode Island’s 2015 median household income was lower than those in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, but higher than those in Maine and Vermont.
Nationally, Rhode Island’s 2015 median income ranks 19th overall (20th if including the District of Columbia).
Median incomes vary considerably by race and ethnicity in Rhode Island, with the median income for White non-Hispanics ($64,284) and Asians ($56,516) much higher than those for Black/African Americans ($36,719), Latinos ($35,455) and American Indians ($26,823).