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Pete Buttigieg hit for 'mostly false' claim of lowering black poverty in South Bend 'by more than half'

Buttigieg continues to struggle with black voters

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg, whose struggles of gaining support from black voters are well-documented, recently claimed that black poverty in South Bend, Indiana, has dropped by more than half since he became mayor. However, a Washington Post fact check revealed that claim to be misleading at best, and false at worst.

The issue at hand is the way Census Bureau data is being utilized by Buttigieg to support that claim, and experts say that the more scientifically reliable data actually shows that black poverty only dropped 6 percent — a far cry from the 54 percent drop Buttigieg boasted of.

Buttigieg bases his claim on one-year estimates from the American Community Survey, which the Census Bureau conducts every year. He points out that in 2011, the year before he became mayor, black poverty was at 53 percent. And in 2017, the rate was down to 24 percent.

The problem is that the one year estimates are relatively more volatile, and additionally, Buttigieg selectively cuts off the data at 2017, even though 2018 data is available.

The Census Bureau also says that multiyear estimates are more reliable, however, especially when analyzing "small geographic areas and small population subgroups." In this case, a narrow focus on the number of black residents living in poverty in a city of about 100,000 people.

The one-year estimates are all over the place, going from 40 percent in 2010 to 53 percent in 2011, then back down to 42 percent in 2012, for example. And while Buttigieg conveniently cuts his data off at 2017, the rate actually rose 8 percent in 2018, meaning if he used all available data he wouldn't be able to claim that it dropped by "more than half" during his tenure.

When looking at more reliable five-year estimates, the picture is much different than the one Buttigieg paints. From 2007-2011, the black poverty rate was 41.86 percent and in 2013-2017 it was 39.25 percent.

In the end, the Post gave the claim Three Pinocchios, which means it was "mostly false."

One last thing…
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