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Kentuckians Earned Less In 2014, Census Shows

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Income levels for Kentucky residents fell by nearly 3 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to data released earlier this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Median income levels for African-American residents took the sharpest fall, dropping nearly 11 percent. In 2014, the median income for African-American residents was $26,375 — down from $30,183 in 2013, according to an analysis by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

To be considered in poverty, a family of four must earn less than $24,250 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Poverty rates also rose in the state. The overall poverty rate increase for Kentucky is not considered statistically significant: It rose from 18.8 percent in 2013 to 19.1 percent in 2014. But it's a different story for the climbing poverty rate among African-Americans and residents living in far Eastern Kentucky, the data show.

Among African-American residents, the poverty rate across the state climbed from nearly 29 percent in 2013 to 32.4 percent in 2014. In Kentucky's Fifth Congressional District — stretching east from Pulaski County to Pike County and north from Bell County to Boyd County — the poverty rate jumped from 26.7 percent in 2013 to 29.2 percent in 2014.

Child poverty in Eastern Kentucky also increased from by more than 5 percent to 39.8 percent, the census data show.

In Jefferson County, the overall poverty rate has steadily increased since 2008, from 14.4 percent to more than 16 percent in 2014. That means about 124,100 people in Louisville are living below the poverty threshold.

In Fayette County, the poverty rate has increased from 15.6 percent in 2008 to more than 20 percent in 2014, the census data show.

“Kentucky has a long way to go until we can say we have a strong economy where all Kentuckians’ lives are getting better,” said Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

The lowest poverty rate among the state's 13 largest counties is in Boone County, where about 7 percent of some 124,000 residents are living in poverty. The highest is found in Pike County, where nearly 27 percent of the county's 63,000 residents earn below the poverty threshold.

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Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.