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Poverty in Oakland County

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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In a county such as Oakland, once the fourth wealthiest county in America, according the U.S. Census bureau, in 2012 had fallen to the 24th wealthiest county out of 3,144 counties in the United States down from seventh in 2010. According to statistical data from Data Driven Detroit, while the majority of poverty is still primarily clustered in typically poorer areas of the county like Pontiac, Oak Park and Hazel Park, there has also been a doubling, or greater, of pockets of poverty in affluent areas of the county, including Bloomfield Township, Farmington Hills, Rochester Hills, Troy, Commerce Township, White Lake and West Bloomfield.

"The fact is that Michigan has not had this full rebound," said Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of Michigan League for Public Policy. "There are pockets where you don't expect to find poverty. A lot of people lost homes, have had their incomes slashed, lost their jobs and don't have them again, have taken part-time jobs, or are often working two part-time jobs and it's still not enough to support their families. They're living in, or from, affluent areas. The downturn in the economy was very far-reaching, and we're still feeling the effects of it."

The U.S. Census released a report on September 13 of this year indicating that incomes of typical Americans rose in 2015 by 5.2 percent, which is the first significant boost to middle class pay not only since the end of the Great Recession, but since 1967, and along with that, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points nationally which they termed a statistically significant amount. Yet, the poverty rate continued to remain roughly eight percent nationally. The census bureau suggested the "recovery from the recession is finally beginning to lift the fortunes of large swaths of American workers and families." Yet, there were still 43.1 Americans in poverty across the nation, although that number indicated 3.5 million fewer than in 2015.

Locally, out of a current population of just over 1.2 million residents in Oakland County, 121,857 residents were considered below the poverty level in 2014, almost double the number in 1999, when there were 65,478. Of those numbers, 14 percent, or 11,516, were younger than six years of age; 12.4 percent, or 11,228, were between six and 11 years old; 11 percent, or 10,830, were between 12 and 17 years; 9.7 percent of those in poverty, or 74,675 individuals, were between 18 and 64 years old; 7.2 percent, 7,666 people, were between 65 and 74; and 5,942 people, or 7.8 percent were 75 and older.

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