JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New Census data shows that Duval County families have seen their incomes go up over the past decade, but despite the improvement, there are still economic disparities.
The data comes from the American Community Survey, which is sent to a sample of households across the country every year. The latest report combines data from 2016 to 2020.
While the data shows improvements to the poverty rate in Duval County over the last decade, a local advocate says the coronavirus might have moved us backward when it comes to how some families are doing financially.
As the U.S. recovered from the Great Recession, the data shows the percentage of people living below the poverty line in Duval County from 2011 to 2015 was 17.3%. That dropped about 3 points in the following five years -- to 14.5%.
But the effects varied by race. While the poverty rate dropped 1.2% for non-Hispanic white people, it dropped 6.6% for Black people and 4.4% for Hispanic people.
But even with the improvements, the data shows the poverty rate was higher for minorities -- the rate for Duval County’s Black population was 22.1% from 2016 to 2020. That’s more than twice that of the white population at 10.1%.
“I think it still says that we have a long way to go,” said Irvin Cohen, executive director at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, in Jacksonville
LISC helps with things like affordable housing and community development -- usually in underserved communities. Cohen says the historic lack of adequate high-level education and the practice of redlining account for the economic disparities facing minorities.
“You just don’t wake up one morning and forget all of the history that has happened,” Cohen said.
Cohen says he wouldn’t be surprised if the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the economic gains for minorities over the past decade.
“Two steps up and three steps back,” he said.
He says people are struggling right now with housing costs and inflation overall and that can have a big impact on those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
“That’s the difference between being in a home and being out in the streets. That’s the difference between having access to a job and not having access to a job,” he said.
But he says there are things we can do to address the issue of economic disparity: acknowledging the problem and bringing diverse voices to the table.
While this survey data does include 2020, much of the data in the survey comes from the four years before the pandemic, so it may not fully reflect the impact COVID-19 had on families. Also, the Census Bureau also had to account for the fact that fewer people responded in 2020, due to the pandemic.