St. Louis Public Radio News
5:33 pm
Tue September 28, 2010

New government survey may underreport Mo. poverty levels

ST. LOUIS – Community activists said that a new government survey underreports the level of poverty in Missouri.

Data released Tuesday from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey show 14.6 percent of Missourians live in poverty. That's lower than other recent census estimates.

Jessica Wong works for the Missouri Association for Community Action, a statewide anti-poverty organization. She said that the survey only included Missouri's biggest counties.

"Where it falls short is that it doesn't cover every county and so it doesn't present a complete picture," Wong said, "The poverty rate as reported by the U.S. census bureau is actually 15.5 percent, or 926,000 Missourians."

Gary Dollar is executive director at the United Way of Greater St. Louis. He said that his organization sees that reality through its 2-1-1 hotline.

"Calls for basic needs, food, shelter, those kinds of needs, have gone up," Dollar said. "So where a year, year and a half ago we were getting 350 or 400 calls, we're now getting as many as a thousand calls a day."

Wong says the data does provide an accurate picture for individual counties, but only 16 counties were surveyed. The survey shows a poverty rate of about 27 percent in St. Louis city and nearly 10 percent in St. Louis County.