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LaGrange County poverty doubles in last decade

More than twice as many LaGrange County families are living in poverty in 2010 than in 2000, according to U.S. Census numbers released last week.

According to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,314. In 2000, the threshold was at $17,603.

In LaGrange County, the median household income barely changed in the same decade, with 2010’s median income level in the county at $44,151. It was $44,096 in 2000.

In 2000, the census showed 2,817 residents living below the poverty level, or 8 percent of the population. In 2007, the last year before the economy began its downward track, that number had risen slightly to 3,300, or 9 percent of the population.

But by 2009, those numbers had changed significantly, with 4,891 people listed as in poverty, which is 13.2 percent of the population.

The most recent numbers for 2010 show that the numbers continued to increase, up to 5,897 or 16.1 percent of the county’s population.

For 2010, the census estimated that there were 2,337 children ages 5-17 living in families that are below the poverty level in the county. In 2000, there were an estimated 1,168 children in that age range who lived in poverty in LaGrange County.

No data was available for ages under 5, according to the Census release.

LaGrangeCounty clearly leads the other counties in Northeast Indiana. Steuben County had 12.8 percent. Noble County had 12.6 percent and DeKalb County had 10.6 percent of its population living in poverty.

The state average was 15.3 percent, up from 8.8 percent in 2000.

The data fits with what area schools have been seeing with sharp increases in free and reduced lunch programs over the past few years.

Area organizations, like the LaGrange County Clothes and Food Basket, are also seeing higher participation. And the recent Big Give event in Shipshewana drew several hundred people who were in need of clothes and food.