Poverty concerns


Minnesota has one of the lowest poverty rates in the nation, but the numbers are somewhat deceiving.

Such was the message shared with the Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020.

According to a 2005 American Community Survey, 9.2 percent of Minnesotans live below the federal poverty guideline, the fifth-lowest mark in the country. The national average is 13.3 percent. However, if the state had the ethnic makeup akin to other states, the percent of people in poverty would be 12.4 percent. State Economist Tom Stinson said 2006 survey results are expected by the end of the month.

State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said the 19 percent poverty rate in Minneapolis and St. Paul puts those cities on par with Louisiana and the District of Columbia. The rate is 13 percent in northern Minnesota and 11 percent in the northwest area.

According to a June 2007 report by the Jobs Now Coalition, in a family of three with both parents working, each worker would have needed to earn at least $10.14 per hour in 2006 to meet the costs of basic family needs; $12.24 for a family of four. However, 37 percent of Minnesota jobs pay less than $12.24 per hour; 26 percent pay less than $10.14 per hour.

Created by a 2006 law, the commission is to study public policy strategies to end poverty in the state by 2020. A final report is due to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2008. An interim report is scheduled to be available for the 2008 Legislature.

In addition to the overview meeting, the commission is tentatively scheduled to have nine listening sessions across the state between Sept. 27 and Jan. 10, 2008.