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The U.S. Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program provides annual estimates of income and poverty statistics for all school districts, counties, and states. The main objective of this program is to provide estimates of income and poverty for the administration of federal programs and the allocation of federal funds to local jurisdictions. In addition to these federal programs, state and local programs use the income and poverty estimates for distributing funds and managing programs.

The SAIPE program produces the following county and state estimates:

  • total number of people in poverty
  • number of children under age 5 in poverty (for states only)
  • number of related children ages 5 to 17 in families in poverty
  • number of children under age 18 in poverty
  • median household income

In addition, in order to implement provisions under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended, we produce the following estimates for school districts:

  • total population
  • number of children ages 5 to 17
  • number of related children ages 5 to 17 in families in poverty

The estimates are not direct counts from enumerations or administrative records, nor direct estimates from sample surveys. Instead, for counties and states, we model income and poverty estimates by combining survey data with population estimates and administrative records. For school districts, we use the model-based county estimates and inputs from federal tax information and multi-year survey data to produce estimates of poverty. See the Methodology page for further details on the models and see Information about Data Inputs for details on the data sources.

Beginning with the SAIPE program's estimates for 2005, data from the American Community Survey (ACS) are used in the estimation procedure; all prior years used data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplements of the Current Population Survey. Further details are given in a 2007 SAIPE report, Use of ACS Data to Produce SAIPE Model-Based Estimates of Poverty for Counties.

The U.S. Census Bureau, with support from other Federal agencies, originally created the SAIPE program to provide more current estimates of selected income and poverty statistics than the most recent decennial census. A brief history of the SAIPE program can be found on the Origins of the Project page. Prior to the creation of the SAIPE program the decennial census was the only source of income distribution and poverty statistics for households, families, and individuals if one needed data for "small" geographic areas, e.g., counties, cities, and other substate areas. The ten-year span between the release of decennial census data left a large gap in information concerning fluctuations in the economic situation of the nation and local areas.

Single-year direct survey ACS estimates are annually available for counties and other areas with population size of 65,000 or more. Five-year ACS estimates are annually available for all counties and school districts, as well as for other small geographic areas (e.g., census tracts). Three-year ACS estimates were published for some years, but they are now discontinued. Since modeling produces estimates with reduced sampling error, the SAIPE program continues to annually produce single-year model-based estimates for all school districts, counties, and states.

Page Last Revised - November 8, 2023
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