Luzerne County has seen some slight changes in demographics in a year's time, with U.S. Census figures reflecting better days for senior citizens but less optimistic for children and non-senior adults.
According to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates (the latest figures available), there were 5,331 people 65 and older living below the poverty level in Luzerne County in 2011 compared to 5,544 in 2010.
Based on the senior population in the county, those living below the poverty level decreased from 10 percent to 9.7 percent in a year's time. But that's still above the national average of 9.4 percent.
The number of children living in poverty in Luzerne County increased since 2010, from 13,743 to 14,225 – a spike of 3.5 percent. That occurred as the total under-18 population decreased slightly (0.6 percent) from 64,148 to 63,740.
Those numbers show that the portion of Luzerne County's children who were living in poverty increased from 21.4 percent to 22.3 percent in a year's time. That's worse than the national average of 20 percent.
At the same time, the number of those age 18 to 64 who were living below the poverty level increased 4.9 percent – from 23,017 in 2010 to 24,139 in 2011.
So the portion of the adult non-senior population living below poverty level increased from 12.1 percent to 12.7 percent. That's still below the national average of 13.1 percent.
ACS numbers also reflect an increase in public assistance in the form of food stamps, with the number of households taking advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rising from 14,238 – 10.9 percent of all households in 2010 – to 16,163 – 12.3 percent of all households in 2011.
That in itself is a 13.5-percent increase in the number of county households receiving food stamps.
The numbers bear out what social service agencies are seeing locally.
Monsignor Joseph Kelly, executive director at Catholic Social Services in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, said the need for food drives and donations to food pantries has grown considerably.
All of our food pantries are struggling, he told The Times Leader in November.
This situation is everywhere … so many new families are in need who never went to a food bank before. But they have to go now because they can't make ends meet, Kelly said.
The good news is that the proportion of households in higher income brackets in the county is increasing while the proportion of those in lower income brackets is decreasing.
While Forbes Magazine ranked the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area the fifth worst-paying metropolitan region in the United States in December, the number of households in Luzerne County with annual incomes exceeding $150,000 increased 14 percent in 2011.
Here's a breakdown of how household income brackets changed in Luzerne County:
• Less than $15,000 – 16.0% in 2010, 15.5% in 2011.
• $15,000-$34,999 – 26.6% in 2010, 25.9% in 2011.
• $35,000-$74,999 – 33.8% in 2010, 33.4% in 2011.
• $75,000-$149,999 – 19.8% in 2010, 20.9% in 2011.
• More than $150,000 – 3.8% in 2010, 4.3% in 2011.
The median household income increased from $42,224 in 2010 to $43,296 in 2011. That's an increase of 2.5 percent.