Poverty Data Prior to 2009 at Census Tract


I am attempting to find poverty data at the census tract level prior to 2009. I have been able to use the ACS 5-Year estimates to pull the data for various counties in Texas, but I would ideally like poverty data at the census tract level (or close to that) for prior years. I understand that the census tracts shift sometimes, but I can only find poverty data at the county level prior to 2009. Any suggestions on where I might be able to find data that is a little closer to the census tract level in regards to poverty? I am also open to using other factors to measure items similar to poverty (e.g., average rent, home value, etc.)

Thank you!
Colton C. Strawser

  • Hi, Colton. I'm weighing in on a whim here, as I am in the policy arena and not a researcher or analyst. The ACS was not fully implemented until 2005 (and Group Quarters were not added until 2006), which explains why you can't find tract level estimates prior to 2009, as those require five years of averaged data. The Census Bureau did collect data through what I'll call a transitional sample, which grew over time into the full ACS, starting in the late 1990s, which I think explains why there were some data available at the county level prior to 2009, at least for areas in the "test" sample.

    Others, please feel free to weigh in if I got something wrong here!

    Terri Ann Lowenthal

  • Hi Colton,

    The ACS began in 2005, so the first 5-year estimate available is for 2005-2009. ACS data "before 2009" could only refer to 1-year estimates that cover that same range range, 2005-2009, and as you've found, are not available at the tract-level. For tract-level data before that period, you'll have to use decennial census data from 2000 (or 1990, or earlier), using data from the census long form, which I believe is in the Census Summary File 3.

    As you mention, the tract boundaries will be largely different for each decennial census, and so they'll be difficult to compare across time (though the 2000 census and 2005-2009 ACS do use the same boundaries; 2006-2010 uses new ones).

  • Ah ha, Bernie ... our replies crossed in cyberspace. Thanks for verifying my explanation.

    Terri Ann

  • Thank you and Terri Ann for your reply! I was not sure if data was available prior to the available ACS data, so it is good to know that the data does not exist rather than me being concerned I did not have all of the available information. :-)