Blog: Today’s Poverty Data Release

Blog: Today’s Poverty Data Release

Marge Clark, BVM
Sep 16, 2015

No better, no worse! The U.S. Census Bureau released the poverty statistics for 2014. Compared with 2013, there were no significant differences in the percentages of people living in poverty. “No change” is NOT something to laud in our society!

Again, more than one in every five children (21.1%) lives below the poverty threshold.

Still, more women (16.1%) and more households headed by women (30.6%) live in poverty than is true for men (13.4% and 15.7%).

The median earnings of women who worked fulltime, year-round ($39,621) was 79% of that for men working fulltime, year-round ($50,383).

Generations of white privilege appear to continue to have an impact on the ability to move out of poverty. “White, not Hispanic” persons have a poverty rate of 10.1%, adding in White Hispanics, the total “White” level rises to 12.7%. This is still less than half the 26.2% poverty rate of Blacks.

Does this represent the nation we want? I grapple with this question.

Congress continues to be stuck! They are unable to even talk across the aisle about what our funding priorities need to be. Are we not committed to the belief that “all (men) are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”? One side of the aisle seems dedicated to providing for instruments of war, death and destruction. The other side of the aisle leans toward protecting the rights to food, shelter, clothing, the ability to work, and other expenditures to enhance the quality of life for all of the people.

Poverty has not gotten a lot worse – on average – even though 46.7 million people (14.8% of the population) live below the official poverty level. This level itself is, in most parts of the nation, unlivable. In 2014:

  • 48.1 million Americans (15.4%) were living in food insecure households. (www.frac.org)
  • The national average housing wage for a two-bedroom apartment is two-and-a-half times the minimum wage of $7.25, or $4 more than the average wage of $15.16/hour earned by renters.

(http://nlihc.org/oor)

All of these numbers vary greatly when looked at by state. A visit to any of the websites noted will let you examine the conditions in your own state.

Not all the news is bad!! The U.S. Census Bureau study includes numbers and trends in those having health insurance – truly a huge expense to those who do not. There was a significant change in the numbers/rates of those without health insurance coverage for 2014, compared with 2013. The number of those without health insurance, for all of 2014 was 33.0 million (10.4%), down from 41.8 million (13.3%) in 2013.

A second method of measuring poverty (The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2014) done in conjunction with the Bureau of Labor Statistics was also released today. This provides a deeper understanding of economic conditions. This supplemental measure adds the value of in-kind benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school lunches, housing assistance and refundable tax credits. It takes into consideration the impact of government assistance programs that help keep people from falling into poverty, or help lift them out of poverty. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit kept an additional 3.1% of households with children above the poverty threshold.

The impact of these is amazingly wonderful – and most are in danger of again being cut. The improvements made to the EITC in 2012 are scheduled to go away in 2017. These have been significant in the impact of the EITC on poverty. While Congress continues to give tax dollars back to the very wealthy and to corporations, and to make many of them permanent, they refuse to make permanent improvements in the EITC and the Child Tax Credit.

Do we want, as a nation, to continue to have one in every five of our children living in poverty, in food insecure households, unable to afford excellent child care? Is remaining stagnant who we want to be?

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