Turn Of Fortune For Historically-Battered Southwest Florida

half-finished-poolSouthwest Florida is being hit, and it is being hit badly. Poverty rates are rising at a very alarming rate, faster than any other place in the country. This trend, influenced by the incredible plunges in household income of the Great Recession is noticed largely in those under 18.

Less than five years ago, the County of Sarasota was a lot better off. Its poverty rate was a lot lower than other places in Florida. However, from 2007 to 2010, the tune of the music changed suddenly, and it changed for the worse. In a flash, the poverty rate had spiked from about 8% to over 13%. The full report of this transformation was shown by a Herald-Tribune publication released on Tuesday.

The alarming nature of the picture becomes more glaring when we realize that that is actually a jump by 5% at a period when the national rate was increased by just 2%. In the United States, a family of four is considered to be in poverty if it makes below $22,113 on an annual basis.

For Sarasota County that is supposed to be in the top 10% of counties that have the lowest rates of poverty, this county cannot even be accounted for in the top 30%. It is now categorized as being in the 31st percentile. This is reflected in the data that has been released for all the 3,124 counties in the country. A similar pattern was seen with Manatee County, where an approximate plunge rate was noticed. However, there were differences in the exact figures and the percentiles. In the year 2007, Manatee was placed among the 25% of counties that had the lowest rates of poverty. As of last year, Manatee had dropped to the 41st percentile, with its rate climbing from 10.6% to 14.5%. Another factor that has been said to influence poverty in Southwest Florida is the unemployment rate (higher than the average) and its vast slump in wages.

Sarasota’s poverty rate has risen to 20%, yet it is home to households earning the highest average income of $150,000 based on Herald Tribune’s analysis report. The contrasts in earnings even worsened the situation, showing great disparity.

Sarasota seems to be divided into 2 communities. One community is composed of well-off retirees and the other enclave belongs to Sarasotans who are earning wages from daily work. Most of the estimated 1,638 homes of high-income households belong to retirees. However, it seems that the economy has solely relied on retirees, tourism, and construction that are being supported by earnings from low paying jobs. In the past, earnings from construction jobs have helped boost the economy but wages have drastically dropped due to steep competition. In contrast to the high-income households, 9.9% of households are earning less than $10,000 a year.

Other cities like North Port, Port Charlotte, Venice, and Bradenton are faring well compared to Sarasota. These cities have higher median household income. Yet, none of these cities experience high percentage of households earning less than $10,000 in a year.

Such conditions are quite alarming. Some even say such disparity can even cause dissonance within the community.