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Poverty rate up in area
Poverty has a grip on Stanislaus County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Get the feeling that things aren't getting better in Stanislaus County? That's because they aren't.

According to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey, the "below the poverty line" rate of Stanislaus County increased to 19.2 percent while the rate in the state overall decreased to 15.3 percent. In terms of numbers that means 100,894 out of 525,491 residents living in the county have an income that is considered impoverished.

Poverty status is determined by comparing annual income to a set of dollar values called poverty thresholds that vary by family size, number of children and age of householder. If a family's before tax money income is less than the dollar value of their threshold, then that family and every individual in it are considered to be in poverty.

The poverty thresholds are updated annually to allow for changes in the cost of living using the Consumer Price Index.

The 2014 poverty guidelines state that a family of three is in poverty is annual household income is at or less than $19,790 annually. For a family of four, $23,850; family of five, $27,910; six, $31,970; seven, $36,030; and eight, $40,090. For a single individual, the poverty level is $11,670. For two in a household, the level is $15,730.

Part of the story behind the poverty rate is that education levels and employment opportunities are lacking. Education levels are not up to par with the rest of the state, according to the survey. Only 16.3 percent of county residents have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 30.5 percent statewide. The county also harbors more persons without a high school diploma than the statewide average - 76 percent have diplomas in the county compared to 81 percent in the state.

The economic standing of those in Stanislaus County suffers as a result. Median household income in Stanislaus County is $49,866 annually compared to $61,400 statewide, a difference of $11,534.

Because of lower home prices locally, home ownership is higher locally, with 59.1 percent buying or owning their own house, compared to 51 percent as a statewide average. The median value of a house in the county is far less than the state: $192,200 compared to $383,900.

Things are far worse in Merced County where the poverty rate is 35.1 percent.

At a population of 46,417, Ceres has a poverty rate slightly higher than the rest of the county as a whole. The U.S. estimates are that 19.9 percent living in Ceres are considered in poverty.

While the county has 40.6 percent of residents in households where English is not spoken, the rate in Ceres is 52.5 percent.

Only 10 percent in Ceres have college degrees compared to 16.3 percent countywide. An estimated 67.7 percent of Ceres residents have a high school diploma or higher while the statewide average is 81 percent.

Poverty rates for cities and communities in Stanislaus County, from greatest to least are as follows:

• Keyes - 33.1 percent;
• Newman - 21.5 percent;
• Hughson - 20.6 percent;
• Ceres - 19.9 percent;
• Modesto - 19.5 percent;
• Waterford - 18.2 percent;
• Riverbank - 16.6 percent;
• Turlock - 15.7 percent;
• Oakdale - 15.6 percent;
• Patterson - 15.1 percent.

As far as housing values are concerned, the 2013 American Community Survey notes these are the median home values in each of the communities in the county in order of highest to lowest:

• Oakdale - $222,200;
• Turlock -- $214,600;
• Riverbank - $188,900;
• Hughson - $186,700;
• Modesto - $186,000;
• Patterson - $174,400;
• Ceres - $167,300;
• Waterford - $156,300;
• Newman - $147,500.
• Keyes - $118,300.