Poverty in Working Washington:
Ferry County

Poverty In Working Washington
Ferry County
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Hunger is a symptom of poverty. It persists in households that do not have enough income and resources to put food on the table. Those households face deep-seated structural barriers that have been ingrained in our culture and in our policies, limiting opportunities for economic growth. For many in Washington, living in poverty (income of $24,339 or less for a family of four) is not about being jobless or not having a roof over your head. For countless working families, poverty is simply about the numbers not adding up by the end of each month. 

What percent of Ferry County residents live below the federal poverty threshold?

The federal poverty threshold is the measure used by the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), is set each year by the federal government. It varies based on family size and the number of children in a given family. The threshold does not vary based on location or cost of living. (A related term—poverty guidelines—are often used to determine benefits program eligibility. Unlike the Census's thresholds, poverty guidelines do vary somewhat based on location.)

ACS data is released every year as annual estimates. However, for small counties, the data is only available in five-year estimates—60-month periods, rather than 12-month—to enable sufficiently accurate estimates with smaller sample sizes. The data shown here is from the 5-year estimates, rather than annual estimates. 

How many Ferry County residents live below 185% of the poverty threshold?

In Washington, families with incomes within 185% of the federal poverty level typically quality for Basic Food benefits, the state's version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. See Food Insecurity in Washington for more information on households participating in this program.

How many Ferry County residents are unemployed?

The unemployment rate is the percent of unemployed people out of the labor force. The labor force is not the total population. It excludes young children, retired adults, and other people who are not actively looking for work. (Note: the monthly rate here is not seasonally-adjusted.)

Why this matters: Low incomes and limited access to resources are primary drivers for food insecurity. Even for workers who are regularly employed (many working more than one job), wages in Washington state have not kept up with our state’s higher cost of living. An additional hurdle that Washington state workers face is the seasonality of employment—especially in communities dependent on industries such as tourism and agriculture.

We also know that there are many more people struggling than are captured in this data since the numbers exclude children and retirees living on fixed incomes.

How does the poverty rate in Ferry County vary by employment status?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who are unemployed are far more likely to live below poverty level than employed residents. Roughly 30% of unemployed residents in Washington live below poverty level. 

How does the poverty rate vary between native and foreign-born residents in Ferry County?

Foreign-born residents—immigrants and other people in Washington who were born in another country—are slightly more likely to live in poverty than U.S.-born residents. 

Why this matters: Though Washington may have a lower percentage gap than the national average (primarily due to our growing tech industry presence), jobs that are made available to many immigrants are often lower paying—placing many people in immigrant communities below the poverty level.

What is the gender pay gap in Ferry County?

The gender pay gap, also called the wage gap, is the difference in earnings between men and women. The earnings figures shown here are for full-time, year-round civilians.

While both men and women in Washington earn more money compared to national figures, the pay gap in Washington is even more pronounced. Women in Washington earn roughly 76 cents for every dollar that men earn. (Nationally, women earn 80 cents on the dollar.) 

Ferry County's Gender Pay Gap: by Occupation

Why this matters: In addition to the uncontrolled gender pay gap, which shows women making only $0.79 for every dollar men make in 2019, food insecurity rates are disproportionately higher for households with children headed up by single women.

Childhood hunger rates are currently at 1 in 6. A priority area for Washington hunger advocates is to improve both access and participation in childhood nutrition programs such as school lunch and breakfast programs, summer meal programs, and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children).

How does income inequality—the gap between rich and poor—manifest throughout Ferry County?

The Gini index, or Gini coefficient, is a statistical measure of distribution that is often used to track economic inequality. It measures how wealth is distributed in a given population. The output is a value between 0 and 1.

Higher values mean greater inequality. A Gini value of 0 means a perfectly equal society, where everyone's income is the same. A value of 1, on the other hand, represents perfect inequality—a society in which only one person or group has all the wealth. 

Data Sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provided data for the following charts:

Unemployment data is the U3 rate from Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS).

More information on the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures for unemployment, including definitions of rates, can be found here.

American Community Survey

The American Community Survey (ACS) provided data for the following charts:

Poverty: Table S1701.

Poverty: by Employment Status: Table S1701.

Income to Poverty Ratio: Under 185% Threshold: Table C17002. The data is calculated by summing the number of people with a ratio of income to poverty at or below 1.85, shown as a percent of the total population.

Poverty: by Nativity: Table S1703.

Income: by Occupation and Gender: Table B24022.

Gini Index of Income Inequality: Table B19083.

Readers can download both the 5-year and 1-year ACS estimates for these tables via data.census.gov.

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