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In the Long Run: Another Look at Farm Poverty

With the initiation of an official definition of poverty in the mid-1960s, the U.S. Census Bureau calculated poverty rates for the U.S. population starting from 1959, including the population that lived on farms. Calculations of the poverty rate for the farm population were discontinued after 1991, when the concept became less valid because many farmers had shifted their residences to town.

In the late 1950s, half of the people living on farms were in poverty. The rate fell steeply through the 1960s and 1970s, with a marked but temporary increase during the farm crisis of the 1980s. By 1991, the last year it was estimated by the Census Bureau, the rate was 12.5 percent. Using 2000 Census data, ERS estimated the poverty rate for people living on farms at 9.7 percent.