Sunday, September 04, 2005

More people live in poverty in a time of unshared prosperity

Even as the economy grew, incomes stagnated last year and the poverty rate rose, the Census Bureau reported this week. Read the report here.

The national poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent. That means 37 million Americans living below the poverty line, which is, for example, $19,307 for a family of four. See the poverty levels here.

In Florida, the poverty rate was 12.2%, or about 2 million people living in poverty.

The numbers “should be a wake-up call for our nation,” said Roberta Spivek of the American Friends Service Committee. “At a time when at least one in every eight people in our country lives in poverty, Congress is poised to cut $35 billion from survival programs like food stamps and Medicaid. At the same time, it is considering $70 billion in tax breaks that will mainly benefit the most affluent households.”

It may seem obvious, but a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that in a given year, 30% of those below the poverty line experienced critical hardship -- which is defined as being evicted, doubling up in others’ housing due to lack of funds, having utilities disconnected or not having enough to eat. An additional 30% to 45% of the poor experienced other serious hardships. Read the report here.

A closer look at the numbers reveals a large gender poverty gap: 14.3 million poor adult women compared to 9.7 million poor adult men. That means one of every eight women lives in poverty, compared to one of every 11 men. And the 35.9% poverty rate for single mother families was over twice the 17.2% rate for single father families.

Read Legal Momentum’s analysis here.


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