The University of Georgia's Initiative on Poverty and the Economy: an initiative of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach

The University of Georgia's Initiative on Poverty and the Economy: an initiative of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach

Interactive Poverty Statistics

Black Belt FAQ

What is the Southern Black Belt?

The Southern Black Belt is a term made well known in 1901 by Booker T. Washington to describe the color of the rich southern soil on which slaves worked. The term is now often used to describe the Southern region in a political sense—the Black Belt remains a collection of 11 states containing counties with higher-than-average percentages of black residents stretching across Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

How many people are poor in the Southern Black Belt?

Throughout the 11 states of the Southern Black Belt, there are 11,523,063 people living in poverty.

How do the rural and urban poverty rates compare for the Southern Black Belt?

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the 11 states that make up the Southern Black Belt have a combined rural poverty rate of 18.7 percent, translating into almost 1 in every 5 rural residents living in poverty. The urban poverty rate for the Southern Black Belt is 14.0 percent.

How does the poverty rate compare across the states of the Southern Black Belt?

The following is a breakdown of poverty rates across the Southern Black Belt.

Geography Poverty Rate
Alabama16.10%
Arkansas15.84%
Florida12.51%
Georgia12.99%
Louisiana19.64%
Mississippi19.93%
North Carolina12.28%
South Carolina14.11%
Tennessee13.48%
Texas15.37%
Virginia9.59%
Southern Black Belt14.06%

How does the poverty rate of the Southern Black Belt compare to the national poverty rate?

The poverty rate for the Southern Black Belt is higher than the national poverty rate. The Southern Black Belt has a poverty rate of 14.06 percent, while the national poverty rate is 12.38 percent.

What is the official poverty level for a family of four living in the Southern Black Belt?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the official poverty threshold for 2004 was $19,157 for a family of four.

How does the federal government determine the official poverty level?

In 1963, Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration developed the poverty thresholds used by the federal government. Orshansky based her thresholds on the ability to afford food for all members of a family. Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau (www.census.gov) reports the new poverty level, which is recalculated each year in accordance with the Consumer Price Index.

How much annual income do most Americans believe it takes to provide adequately for a family of four?

Over half of those responding to a 2003 survey by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development said a family of four needs above $31,000 to cover their basic needs. The poverty threshold set by the federal government was $19,157 for a family of four for 2004.

How many children are living in poverty in the Southern Black Belt?

The child poverty rate is 19.05 percent—meaning 19 percent of all children in the Southern Black Belt live in poverty. That equates to about 4.5 million children throughout the 11 states that make up the Southern Black Belt. Children make up 35.14 percent of the population living in poverty.

What is the cost to the American economy of permitting the persistence of childhood poverty?

For every year that 14.5 million American children continue to experience poverty, it costs the American economy $130 billion in lifetime contributions due to the fact that poor children become less educated and often less productive adults.

What percentages of African Americans are poor in the Southern Black Belt? Hispanics? Caucasians?

Race/Ethnicity Poverty Rate
African-American26.35%
Hispanic22.99%
White10.11%

African-Americans make up roughly 36 percent of the poverty population; Hispanics make up 21.5 percent; and Whites comprise about 52 percent of the poverty population.

When Americans are asked how many people live in poverty in the U.S., what is the average number reflected in their responses?

When asked, nearly half of Americans did not know how many people live in poverty in the U.S. Of those responding, 64 percent believed the number to be 5 million or fewer. The actual total for 2004 is almost 34 million people.

What percentage of the Southern Black Belt’s poor, over the age of 16, works part-time or full-time, yet cannot earn enough to secure the basic necessities of life?

Over half—58.6 percent of those in poverty in the Southern Black Belt work at least part-time and are still unable to afford basic necessities.

If a single parent of two works full-time in a minimum wage job for a year, where would his income be in relation to the poverty level?

A single parent of two children working a full-time minimum wage job will make $10,712 before taxes—more than $4,500 below the federal poverty line.

NOTE: All data are from the 2000 Census, U.S. Census Bureau. 2005. http://www.census.gov