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In the days following the Nov. 4, 2014 election, Providence Mayor-elect Jorge Elorza reflected on his priorities ahead in interviews with various media outlets.
He shared one such reflection Nov. 9, with reporter Bill Rappleye on WJAR-Channel 10’s "News Conference," saying his top priority is seeking more economic justice in Providence. To make his point, he compared the city to what he referred to as the nation’s poorest state.
"Our median income here in Providence is the same as the median income in Mississippi," he said.
Elorza noted that Providence "is a very poor city" that lacks an adequate tax base to provide the services people want and need.
We wondered whether the mayor-elect got his facts right..
We asked Elorza spokeswoman Marisa O’Gara where Elorza got his information.
While waiting for her response, we plumbed U.S. Census Bureau data to see what we could find on our own. There, we learned that that the 2008-2012 American Community Survey five-year estimates placed the median household income in Providence at $38,243 and the median household income in Mississippi slightly higher, at $38,882.
We also reached out to Rhode Island Kids Count and its Mississippi counterpart. The two nonprofit research groups confirmed the figures. But researchers at both agencies urged us to further differentiate between median household income and median family income. (Elorza didn’t say whether he was talking about household or family income.)
The Census Bureau defines family as a group of two or more people who are related. A household, meanwhile, is defined as all the people occupying a housing unit, including family members as well as those who are unrelated.
The same American Community Survey reported that the median family income in Providence was $43,378. In Mississippi, it was substantially higher, at $48,300.
We also asked the state Department of Labor and Training to weigh in. Spokesman Michael Healey provided figures from its labor market information division based on Census data for 2010 through 2013.
Those figures also showed the median family income in Mississippi eclipsing that in Providence for each given year. In 2013, for example, the median family income in Mississippi was $47,615, compared to $45,122 in Providence.
Kids Count researchers cautioned that the five-year estimates were more reliable.
Jorge Elorza said that the median income in Providence "is the same as the median income in Mississippi." He made the comparison to illustrate how poor the capital city really is.
In fact, Providence’s median income, both for households and for families, is actually lower than Mississippi’s, not equal to it. While Elorza’s comparison is slightly off, it supports his overall point.
We rule his claim Mostly True.
(If you have a claim you’d like PolitiFact Rhode Island to check, email us at [email protected]. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.)
TurnTo10.com, "10 News Conference, Part 2: Providence Mayor-elect Jorge Elorza," WJAR-TV, Nov. 9, 2014
Census.gov, U.S. Census Bureau, 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-year, accessed Nov. 18, 2014
Interview and emails, John Neubauer, policy analyst, Rhode Island Kids Count, week of Nov. 16, 2014
Emails, John McCown, research associate, Mississippi Kids Count, week of Nov. 16, 2014
Interview and emails, Michael Healey, spokesman, Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, week of Nov. 16, 2014
ScribD.com, "PolitiFactRI - Providence versus Mississippi," U.S. Census Bureau, Nov. 18, 2014 and "PolitiFactRI - Providence-Mississippi income over 4 years," Nov. 20, 2014
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