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Report: Lexington among college towns with inflated poverty stats

Being home to the University of Kentucky and several other colleges makes Lexington

MGN Online

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Being home to the University of Kentucky and several other colleges makes Lexington's poverty numbers look worse than they actually are, according to a new report.

Lexington is among the hundreds of college towns across the country where college students living off campus -- who usually also don't bring in big paychecks -- have counted toward U.S. Census Bureau poverty statistics. Students who live on-campus or with relatives were excluded.

By taking those college students out of the picture, Census researcher Alemayehu Bishaw found the percentage of Lexington's population living in poverty drops by almost a fifth to 15.2 percent instead of 18.5 percent.

"Though they are a transient resident population, it is apparent that the demographic and economic characteristics of these students are noticeably reflected in the characteristics of the local communities," Bishaw wrote in the report.

Bishaw and the U.S. Census Bureau after some college communities wanted to look at their poverty rates that excluded their large student populations who generally don't meet the income threshold while in college for living outside poverty.

The report concluded that the poverty rate in Madison County, home to Eastern Kentucky University, would fall from 20.5 to 17.2 percent by rethinking the inclusion of off-campus students living on their own.

When removing those students statewide, the report found Kentucky's poverty numbers drop from 18.8 to 18.2 percent.

"While the poverty rates for most states would be lower if off-campus college students were excluded from the poverty universe, the declines in the state poverty rates would be quite modest," concluded Bishaw's report. "However, at finer levels of geography there are counties and places where the inclusion of off-campus college students has a stronger impact on poverty rates. For some purposes, state and local planners may want to consider using an alternative poverty measure that excludes these students."

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