Nearly one in six school children in Stanislaus County is living in poverty, U.S. Census Bureau statistics released Wednesday show.
Poverty isn't spread evenly among the county's school districts. Example: Modesto City Schools' elementary youngsters are five times more likely to be poor than those attending Knights Ferry Elementary.
But pockets of poverty can be found throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley and nearby foothills, in big cities and tiny towns.
Some of the poverty statistics may surprise people who think they know where poor people do and don't live.
The Empire and Salida school districts, for instance, have a lower percentage of impoverished children than do the Sylvan and Stanislaus districts. Waterford's poverty rate is lower than Oakdale's, and Riverbank's is about the same as Turlock's. Sonora's is higher than Patterson's.
Here's another surprise: Despite this region's deep recession, the student poverty rates are about the same as they were in 2000.
In Stanislaus, for instance, the Census Bureau's just-released data for 2008 showed 18.1 percent of students were living in poverty. The rate was 19 percent in 2000.
Some school districts actually had a higher percentage of children in poverty at the start of the decade. In 2000, about 29 percent of Modesto City Schools' kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students were in poverty, but that dropped to 26 percent last year.
The Turlock and Merced elementary districts also experienced poverty rate declines this decade.
What constitutes "poverty" is a federal statistic that changes every year and varies by family size and makeup. For a family with two adults and two children, the poverty line was $21,834. Such a family earning less than that in 2008 was classified as being in poverty. Those earning more were not.
The Census Bureau calculates poverty rates by school district as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Poverty is one criteria used to determine the allocation of federal funds to public schools.
The income level of families with children age 5 to 17 was determined by combining the Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates with aggregate data from federal tax information, administrative records on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation, Census 2000 statistics and annual population estimates.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2196.