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DATE: September 29, 2017

TO: Jim Westmoreland, PE, City Manager


Barbara Harris, Assistant City Manager

FROM: Sue Schwartz, FAICP, Director

SUBJECT: 2016 American Community Survey Results for Greensboro

Background
Every year between the decennial counts, the US Census Bureau conducts a sample survey across the
country on demographic and economic information. We use the American Community Survey (ACS) as
one of our primary data sources for the Planning Departments annual Growth and Development Trends
report. There are some unusual changes in the data we need to make you aware of.

Poverty
According to the ACS, Greensboros population percent below poverty level increased from 16.2% in
2015 to 22.8% in 2016. This is an extraordinary one year jump and of concern since the rate had been
declining the previous two years. Even in the depths of the Great Recession we did not see this kind of
annual change. We have been investigating other economic indicators to see if we can narrow in on
possible explanations.

The American Planning Association and the Urban Institute at UNC Charlotte were consulted. Both
confirmed that this kind of increase is usually associated with a catastrophic economic event e.g. several
major employers closing in the same year or subsequent to a natural disaster. Neither of which
Greensboro has experienced.

Other economic data paint a different picture. For example the unemployment rate for 2017 has
hovered at +/ 5%, down nearly a full percentage from a year ago. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

In addition, the 2016 estimate of growth in the Greensboro labor force is 146,267. This is the largest it
has been since 1990 which is the earliest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Other data from the 2016 ACS are also contradictory. Greensboros population increased between 2015
and 2016, but households, families, and housing units went down.

Greensboro 1-Year Estimates

2015 2016 % Change

Population 285,344 287,019 0.6%

Households 115,301 113,922 -1.2%

Housing
Units 132,438 129,716 -2.1%

Families 66,155 64,634 -2.3%

Conclusions
While it is probable the poverty rate for the City of Greensboro has increased in 2016, it is the
magnitude of this increase that is in question given the other economic indicators for the same time
period. Contacts at both APA and the Urban Institute speculated this could be a sampling anomaly given
the other economic data. We will continue to monitor the data and give a fuller analysis in the annual
Growth and Development Trends report published in early January 2018.