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Census Bureau ranks upstate districts based on poverty

Ashley Hirtzel

Orchard Park has the third-lowest poverty rate of the 455 school districts in upstate New York, according to Business First’s analysis of new Census Bureau data.

The data was collected by the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Program and are based on 2012 figures.

The report finds that more than 4.88 percent of students in the Orchard Park district are living below the federally designated poverty level. East Aurora has the fourth lowest-poverty rate at 5.23 percent. It's followed by Clarence at sixth with 5.28 percent, Williamsville at eighth with 5.48 percent and Lancaster at ninth with 5.52 percent.

Business First Projects Editor Scott Thomas said Buffalo had the worst poverty rating in western New York with more than 38 percent of students living below poverty, that’s two in five students.

“It's important to notice there are several rural districts in western New York, whose poverty levels are virtually the same as Buffalo. Clymer is at about 37 percent. You’ve got Ripley, Friendship, Randolph, Sherman, those are all small Southern tier districts,” said Thomas.

Thomas said out of the 48 upstate New York counties, Utica had the highest poverty rate at 43.86 percent. He says it’s important to keep track of the poverty rankings to identify the correlation between academic performance.

“Poverty rate has a substantial impact on test scores and academic performance in districts. We issue rankings of districts academically annually and we acknowledge that those rankings are affected in a substantial way by the standard of living in those communities. It’s interesting to look at a place like Sherman where the poverty rate is only 3 percent better than Buffalo, yet Sherman finishes in the top third of our academic ranking,” said Thomas.

Thirteen additional districts in western New York are above 30 percent poverty rate. Two Albany suburban districts had the lowest poverty rates overall, of the two Niskayuna came in at 4.28 percent.