Category Archives: Poverty

Who is poor in the United States? A Hamilton Project annual report

Source: Jay Shambaugh, Lauren Bauer, and Audrey Breitwieser, Brookings Institution, Hamilton Project, October 2017

From the introduction:
Who are the millions of people living in poverty in the United States?

In 2016, 40.6 million people, or 12.7 percent of the population, lived in poverty, as defined by the official poverty measure. 6 million fewer people were living in poverty in 2016 than at the peak of 46.7 million in 2014. The official poverty measure is determined by a household’s pre-tax income; for example, in 2016, a family of four earning less than $24,339 would be considered poor.

From 1980 to 2014, the number of people living in poverty in the United States grew from about 29.3 million to 46.7 million. Over this same period, the pre-tax income of the bottom quintile of earnings grew 4 percent while incomes of the top 1 percent grew 194 percent. From 1980 to 2016, growth in the number of people in poverty has come largely from working-age adults.

In this economic analysis, we characterize those who were living in poverty in 2016, as we reported for 2014 and 2015. We then extend these snapshots to examine the population living in poverty over time: how have the characteristics of those living in poverty changed over the past 30 years? We focus particularly on the working-age poor. What share of the working-age poor are in the labor force? What are the most prevalent reasons for labor force nonparticipation among the working-age poor? For those who are working part-time and poor, is it involuntary or for reasons specific to their circumstances?

Breaking the Cycle? Intergenerational Effects of an Anti-Poverty Program in Early Childhood

Source: Andrew Barr, Chloe R. Gibbs, Texas A&M University and Notre Dame, August 2017

From the abstract:
Despite substantial evidence that resources and outcomes are transmitted across generations, there has been limited inquiry into the extent to which anti-poverty programs actually disrupt the cycle of bad outcomes. We explore how the effects of the United States’ largest early childhood program transfer across generations. We leverage the geographic rollout of this federally funded, means-tested preschool program to estimate the effect of early childhood exposure among mothers on their children’s long-term outcomes. We find evidence of intergenerational transmission of effects in the form of increased educational attainment, reduced teen pregnancy, and reduced criminal engagement in the second generation.

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S.: 2016

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Press Release, Release Number: CB17-156, September 12, 2017

Real median household income increased by 3.2 percent between 2015 and 2016, while the official poverty rate decreased 0.8 percentage points. ….

….These findings are contained in two reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016 and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2016. This year’s income and poverty report marks the 50th anniversary of the first poverty estimates released by the Census Bureau in the Current Population report series.

Another Census Bureau report, The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2016, was also released today. The supplemental poverty rate in 2016 was 13.9 percent, a decrease from 14.5 percent in 2015. With support from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Supplemental Poverty Measure shows a different way of measuring poverty in the United States and serves as an additional indicator of economic well-being. The Census Bureau has published poverty estimates using the supplemental poverty measure annually since 2011.

The Current Population Survey, sponsored jointly by the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, is conducted every month and is the primary source of labor force statistics for the U.S. population; it is used to calculate the monthly unemployment rate estimates. Supplements are added in most months; the Annual Social and Economic Supplement questionnaire is designed to give annual, national estimates of income, poverty and health insurance numbers and rates. The most recent Annual Social and Economic Supplement was conducted nationwide and collected information about income and health insurance coverage during the 2016 calendar year. ….

‘What can I do’? Child welfare workers’ perceptions of what they can do to address poverty

Source: Juliana Carlson, Journal of Children and Poverty, Latest Articles, Published online: 02 Aug 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Within the field of child welfare, critical questions have been posed about the intersecting issues of child maltreatment and poverty. The study of the quality and nature of this intersection has continued relevance in light of evidence showing the increased likelihood of maltreatment of children living in poverty. Although child welfare workers interact directly with families involved with the child welfare system, the study of workers’ perceptions of whether or not they address families’ poverty and, if so, how they go about it has not yet been conducted. The study presented begins to address this gap. Analysis from individual interviews with 30 child welfare workers revealed that they differed in their perception of whether or not poverty should be addressed by child welfare and how. Findings suggest workers do what they can despite various barriers, including families’ limitations and the fragile US social welfare safety net. Based on the findings, current practice models and policies that impact poverty and child maltreatment reduction are discussed.

Early Childhood Homelessness in the United States: 50-State Profile

Source: Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), June 2017

….This 2017 release of the 50-state profile project provides a snapshot of early childhood data available for children who are experiencing homelessness in each state, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It includes publicly available data for the year 2014-2015 from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation and reports the following by state:
● Total population under age 6 in 2015
● Estimated number of children under age 6 experiencing homelessness in 2014-15
● Estimated percent of children under age 6 experiencing homelessness in 2014-15
● Estimated extent of homelessness (e.g. one in [X] children under age 6 experienced homelessness in 2014
-15)
● Estimated enrollment of children under age 6 in federally-funded early childhood programs for which data were available in 2014-2015 including Head Start and Local Education Agencies receiving McKinney-Vento subgrants in 2014-2015. Data were not available in 2014-2015 for the Child Care and Development Fund (subsidized child care) and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (evidence-based home visiting).

The 2017 release also includes two new related factors indicators; the percentage of families experiencing a high housing cost burden and the percentage of low-income working families with young children under age 6. These factors we included because of their relationship to homelessness and to spark dialogue about addressing homelessness for children under age 6. This data will also be available in future years…..

Four charts that show who loses out if the White House cuts food stamps

Source: Orgul Demet Ozturk, The Conversation, July 17, 2017

The White House has proposed cutting 25 percent of SNAP’s budget – about US$193 billion – over the next decade. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though it’s more widely known by its pre-2008 name, food stamps. This program helps about 44 million people per month buy food. Last year, the government spent $71 billion in total on the program. SNAP serves the most vulnerable in our society, for whom a little money means a lot. According to the Congressional Budget Office, cuts to SNAP will likely have a major impact on the individuals who were hurt most by the recent recession. As research from myself and many others shows, food assistance can have far-ranging impacts on a person’s health and well-being…..

Why poverty is not a personal choice, but a reflection of society

Source: Shervin Assari, The Conversation, June 30, 2017

…. I believe one reason the United States is cutting spending on health insurance and safety nets that protect poor and marginalized people is because of American culture, which overemphasizes individual responsibility. Our culture does this to the point that it ignores the effect of root causes shaped by society and beyond the control of the individual. How laypeople define and attribute poverty may not be that much different from the way U.S. policymakers in the Senate see poverty.

As someone who studies poverty solutions and social and health inequalities, I am convinced by the academic literature that the biggest reason for poverty is how a society is structured. Without structural changes, it may be very difficult if not impossible to eliminate disparities and poverty. ….

2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2017

From the summary:
The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book urges policymakers not to back away from targeted investments that help U.S. children become healthier, more likely to complete high school and better positioned to contribute to the nation’s economy as adults. The Data Book also shows the child poverty rate in 2015 continued to drop, landing at 21%. In addition, children experienced gains in reading proficiency and a significant increase in the number of kids with health insurance. However, the data indicate that unacceptable levels of children living in poverty and in high-poverty neighborhoods persist.

In this year’s report, New Hampshire ranked first among states for overall child well-being, moving up one from 2016. Massachusetts and Vermont filled out the top three. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi were the three lowest-ranked states.

The Trump team’s poor arguments for slashing SNAP

Source: Patricia Smith, The Conversation, June 25, 2017

The Trump administration aims to slash spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by US$193 billion over the next decade. The proposal would also overhaul how the nation’s main nutrition assistance program operates, potentially encouraging additional cuts by the states.

Curbing SNAP’s reach is only one way that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and other officials are trying to trim the safety net to save taxpayer dollars – while simultaneously boosting military spending.

As an economist who studies nutrition policy, I don’t understand what good the administration thinks it can do by overhauling and paring back an effective and efficient program. By many measures, SNAP successfully satisfies an essential human need and fulfills its mandate to promote the general welfare….

A Burgeoning Crisis? A Nationwide Assessment of the Geography of Water Affordability in the United States

Source: Elizabeth A. Mack, Sarah Wrase, PLOS, Published: January 11, 2017

While basic access to clean water is critical, another important issue is the affordability of water access for people around the globe. Prior international work has highlighted that a large proportion of consumers could not afford water if priced at full cost recovery levels. Given growing concern about affordability issues due to rising water rates, and a comparative lack of work on affordability in the developed world, as compared to the developing world, more work is needed in developed countries to understand the extent of this issue in terms of the number of households and persons impacted. To address this need, this paper assesses potential affordability issues for households in the United States using the U.S. EPA’s 4.5% affordability criteria for combined water and wastewater services. Analytical results from this paper highlight high-risk and at-risk households for water poverty or unaffordable water services. Many of these households are clustered in pockets of water poverty within counties, which is a concern for individual utility providers servicing a large proportion of customers with a financial inability to pay for water services. Results also highlight that while water rates remain comparatively affordable for many U.S. households, this trend will not continue in the future. If water rates rise at projected amounts over the next five years, conservative projections estimate that the percentage of U.S. households who will find water bills unaffordable could triple from 11.9% to 35.6%. This is a concern due to the cascading economic impacts associated with widespread affordability issues; these issues mean that utility providers could have fewer customers over which to spread the large fixed costs of water service. Unaffordable water bills also impact customers for whom water services are affordable via higher water rates to recover the costs of services that go unpaid by lower income households.

Related:
Press release

The climbing cost of water
Source: LaShell Stratton-Childers, Water Environment & Technology (WE&T) Magazine, Volume 29 Number 5, May 2017
(subscription required)

Michigan State researchers predict that water will no longer be affordable for as many as a third of American households.