- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana’s poverty rate increased last year, while median income also rose, according to annual poverty figures released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

Median household income in Montana grew 3 percent in 2013, to about $47,000. That growth put the state among the top five - with Alaska, Kentucky, Utah and Wyoming -for the biggest median household income increases between 2012 and 2013.

The poverty rate rose 1 percent statewide, to 16.5 percent. Only New Mexico showed more of a poverty rate increase with 1.1 percent.

Barbara Wagner, chief economist with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, said the 1 percent increase could fall within the survey’s margin of error and might not indicate an actual rise in the poverty rate.

She said states with smaller populations, such as Montana and New Mexico, might not have returned a large enough sample size for the survey to be completely accurate.

“Just the fact that we do have incomes rising suggests this might just be an issue of a margin of error, but we wouldn’t know that for sure until next year’s numbers come out,” she said.

Nationwide, the poverty rate remained steady for the second year running, at 15.8 percent.

The official poverty level is based on a government calculation that includes only income before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership. As a result, the rate takes into account the effects of some government benefits, such as unemployment compensation. It does not factor in noncash government aid such as tax credits and food stamps.

A family of four is considered to be living in poverty if it brings in less than $23,830 in a year. A person is considered to be living in poverty if he or she makes less than $11,890.

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