Poverty in Vermont: Reduction and Profiles

A Profile of Vermont Residents in Deep Poverty Prepared for the Vermont Child Poverty Council
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1011-01
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This report has been prepared for the Vermont Child Poverty Council, a special coalition of lawmakers, state officials and social workers tasked by the legislature to study ways to decrease child poverty by fifty percent by 2017. The Vermont Child Poverty Council asked the Policy Research Shop to address two main tasks. First, we were asked to create a profile of Vermonters living in deep poverty and not receiving government benefits to assist the Council in targeting efforts toward reaching this population. The second task was to determine the best practices used by other governments which Vermont could implement to reduce child poverty.

The report provides an overview of deep poverty in the United States and then addresses how Vermont’s deep poverty population differs from the national population. These differences and a comparison between rural and urban poverty help shape a better understanding of how national trends and solutions may differ from those in Vermont. The report presents a profile of those in deep poverty, combining data from those currently receiving government benefits, homelessness statistics, and the limited data available on this “hidden population.” The second part of this analysis outlines potential methods for reducing deep poverty. After a summary of Vermont’s current assistance programs, best practices from other states are examined.

In the report the “deep poverty” population is defined as those residents living at or below fifty percent of the federal poverty line. In 2009 the poverty line was set at $11,161 for a single- person household under 65 years of age, while that line adjusts for a family of five to $26,686. Thus, residents living at 50 percent of the poverty line would be living on incomes of less than $5,581 and $13,343, respectively. Few data sources examine families at this low of a poverty level. The lack of precise data on individuals in deep poverty required the use of multiple data sources that do not speak directly to this population. While imperfect, the available data on the more general poverty population, those receiving government benefits, and the homeless help create a profile of the likely characteristics of those in deep poverty in Vermont.

Overall, this report offers three conclusions from the research:

  1. Vermont children in deep poverty share many characteristics with the national demographics of people in deep poverty. However they differ on three key demographics. The Vermont population is almost entirely white, they live in much more rural areas, and they seem to have more educated parents relative to the national average.
  2. Existing evidence suggests many individuals in deep poverty may not have any connection to government benefits or support systems, making their exact number and characteristics difficult to determine.
  3. The most effective measures to reduce deep poverty may involve programs designed to alleviate transportation costs associated with living in rural areas. These programs will likely increase productivity and lead to less poverty and increased self-sufficiency.


In January 2009 the Vermont Child Poverty Council published its first report, Improving the Odds for Kids. This report included poverty reduction goals and measures, a ten-year strategy for reducing child poverty in Vermont that includes five main components. Twelve key goals emerged from community forums on poverty across the state, while eleven steps were outlined by the Council on how to move toward the ultimate goal. A summary of their findings, along with the goals and suggested steps can be found in the appendix of this report.