Graphing poverty rates and numbers, cutting room floor edition

Here are some poverty graphs I guess I’m not going to use in my book.*

I keep data in my head in graphical form. Which means that I need to make a graph, or see someone else’s, before I can really learn the pattern. But truthfully, even looking at other people’s graphs doesn’t make it sink in as well as making my own. So I make a lot of graphs just to look at before I write.

Here’s some of what I was thinking about poverty. These use the official poverty-line cutoff for 2010.**

In this case, I wanted to show how many people in poverty live in each family type, and juxtapose that with the poverty rates for each group. Basically, filling in the facts behind the observation that there are lots of poor married-couple families, even though they are relatively unlikely to be poor. Including age breakdowns is probably what doomed this to too-busyness.

The next one was supposed to do the same thing for age and gender, instead of family type. But after I got this far I started to want to put numbers on it, and that seemed to just defeat the purpose of this kind of graphic.

Anyways, after I get done basically writing the book, I hope to spend some quality time with the graphic experts at Norton as they make all this stuff really work.

*Look for the breakthrough textbook, The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Social Change, from Norton in 2013. Hopefully you’ll find it!

** That is, from the March 2011 Current Population Survey, which asked about annual income the previous year. The data are here in great detail. Note this official poverty-line is quite problematic in describing real-life conditions, but it’s still not bad at showing the relative well-being of different groups. As I discussed in this briefing paper for the Council on Contemporary Families (links provided there), new work on a more accurate poverty measure better captures the inability to meet basic needs. It shows, for example, fewer children and more seniors in poverty as a result of welfare policy (children) and runaway medical costs (seniors).


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2 responses to “Graphing poverty rates and numbers, cutting room floor edition

  1. Ron

    I’m confused about the “Unmarried female-headed families” graph.

    1) The 3 bars don’t come near to adding up to 100%, and
    2) there are that many families headed by minor females?

    Regarding question #1: are the other 12.1% not in poverty?


    • Good question. Those are poverty rates. That is, 46.9% of children who live in unmarried-female-headed families are in poverty; 27.4% of 18-64-year-olds who live in unmarried-female-headed families are in poverty; and, 13.6% of seniors who live in unmarried-female-headed families are in poverty.


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