SIKESTON -- While the nation is seeing a drop in its poverty rate -- the first significant drop since 2000 -- in Sikeston, things apparently remain about the same.
The Census Bureau issues poverty thresholds which are generally used for statistical purposes. This poverty threshold, or poverty line, is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living while relative poverty is defined as households which earn less than 50 percent of the median income.
The official poverty rate nationwide in 2006 was 12.3 percent, down from 12.6 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Sikeston, 21 percent of the population were below the poverty line, or roughly 3,500 people, as of the 2000 census.
While 16.2 percent of families were below the poverty line according to Census figures, the number jumps to 33.3 percent for those under age 18. Poverty among those age 65 or over was actually better than the national average at 12.0 percent.
Presently the Census Bureau is only able to release annual data for areas with a population of over 65,000, according to Stacy Gimbel, public affairs specialist for U.S. Census Bureau.
"Next year we'll actually be releasing data for areas of 20,000 or more," Gimbel said.
This information won't be annual data, but will be presented as three-year estimates that will be updated each year.
Lori Boardman, Sikeston Public School District's liaison with the food service company used by the district, said she hasn't seen any change in the poverty rate reflected in the percentage of families qualifying for free or reduced price meals indicating the national drop in poverty isn't being seen here.
"You'll see variation in the families, but overall we have not seen any drop in numbers," Boardman said. "Our average is between 65 to 70 percent in K-12. We have some elementary schools that get up near 80 percent." Boardman said 86 percent of those are getting free meals and 14 percent are qualifying for reduced price meals as of their January 2006 count.
Gimbel confirmed that the number of students who qualify for free or reduced price meals is used by some as an indicator of local poverty rates.
Area schools just outside of Sikeston aren't seeing any drop in the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced price meals either.
"I believe we're at 67 percent," said Joby Holland, superintendent of Scott County Central schools. "Over the course of time we've stayed pretty consistent, give or take a percentage point."
"Our numbers for free and reduced lunches have not decreased any," said Robin Kimball, superintendent secretary New Madrid County Central schools.
Some information for this article was supplied by The Associated Press.