September 20, 2012

News Coverage of 2011 Census Data: It’s the Economy

When the Census Bureau released 2011 American Community Survey data today, much of the media coverage focused on income, poverty and other state or local economic estimates. Although much coverage cited grim indicators, other stories suggested that the economy finally is bottoming out after years of decline.

The new survey data offers more granular estimates, for jurisdictions with populations of 65,000 people or more, than the bureau’s official income and poverty estimates from the Current Population Survey released last week.

The New York Times looked at the city’s increase in poverty and its widening gap between rich and poor in the city, saying the new numbers offer “a decidedly sober view of how New Yorkers are faring.” The Wall Street Journal  reported that the 2011 data showed that median household incomes fell or stagnated in most states, and a second Journal story reported on persistent poverty in New York City.

Other stories also looked at continuing economic problems. Poverty rose in the Philadelphia area, according to philly.com, and California experienced both a rise in poverty and drop in household income, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Other coverage pointed out the bad news, but concluded it was not as bad as it has been in previous years. “The U.S. economy is showing signs of finally bottoming out,” reported the Associated Press, in a story citing a wide range of indicators beyond income and poverty rates. National Public Radio reported on signs of continuing economic struggle, but added, “the good news is that declines are not as steep” as they were during the Great Recession. Reuters reported that median household income dropped in few states than it had in the past. According to Minnesota Public Radio, the new estimates indicate the Minnesota economy is stabilizing after years of decline.

The Washington Post took a different approach to the economic data, reporting that seven of the nation’s 10 most affluent counties are in the D.C. area, which offers more proof that the region’s economy has been somewhat cushioned from the impacts of the recession.