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Poverty and Prosperity: Trends in the Largest Metropolitan Areas in the 1980s

Publication Abstract

Farley, Reynolds, Charles Peek, and Sheldon H. Danziger. "Poverty and Prosperity: Trends in the Largest Metropolitan Areas in the 1980s." 1991 Proceedings of the Social Statistics Section of the American Statistical Association, Reprint No. 375.

For much of this decade, interest has focused on the urban poor. Researchers wishing to examine rates of poverty in urban areas have typically relied on decennial censuses to provide the precise and geographically specific data needed to test hypotheses about urban poverty. However, these data are released slowly and just once a decade. The authors examine whether it is possible to use data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to estimate poverty rates for the general population and for metropolitan racial/ethnic groups in a more timely manner. In this analysis, they describe the 18 CMSAs and 21 MSAs which had populations in excess of one million in the 1990 census. Using CPS data from the March, 1989 and March, 1990 surveys, they calculate poverty rates for the total and white, Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and non-Hispanic Asian populations, where sample size permitted. By pooling three years of CPS data the authors obtain a sample size one-third greater with correspondingly smaller standard errors. These estimates are compared to 1980 census poverty rates. Significant changes are noted for metropolitan areas and racial/ethnic groups. Four substantive findings are offered: (1), poverty rates vary considerably by metropolitan area; (2), blacks and Hispanics had higher poverty rates than non-Hispanic whites in all cases; (3), nationally, the poverty rate of blacks in the 1980's was about four percent greater than that of Hispanics, but the pattern of black-Hispanic differences varied from one area to another; (4), the proportional increase in poverty during the 1980's was largest among Asians, suggesting that the prevalence of poverty among new immigrants from Pacific Rim countries is high.

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