Source: U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, September 11, 2009
American families are experiencing very difficult economic times – the toughest in terms of stagnant incomes since World War II. Over the 2000-2008 period, the economic policies pursued during the previous administration left most families behind and ill-prepared to weather the severity of the current recession. During the Bush administration, the number of Americans living in poverty increased by nearly 8.2 million; and instead of growing, incomes for families in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution ladder actually fell. One out of every eight Americans was living below the federal poverty line in 2008. Also, during the eight years of the Bush administration, the ranks of the uninsured grew by 20.6 percent. The cost of health insurance has risen steadily, putting pressure on employers and straining cash-strapped American families.
– Health Insurance in America: 2008
– Income in America: 2008
– Poverty in America: 2008
Source: Andrea Orr, Economic Policy Institute, September 24, 2009
In the wake of the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent report on the number of Americans living in poverty, it’s a good time to ask, What is poverty, anyway? The Census Bureau says that in 2008, it was an annual income of $17,330 or less for a family of two adults and one child, $21,834 for a family of four with two children, with additional increases for larger families.
Where in the country can a family of four keep a roof over its head and food on the table for $22,000 a year, before taxes, and still having something left over for health care and transportation? In 2007, EPI took a detailed look at basic costs in different parts of the country and built the Basic Family Budget Calculator, which assembled the costs of basic housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities in different regions of the country. Besides offering detailed data on how much costs vary across rural and urban areas and different geographic regions, the calculator shows that poverty thresholds are too low just about everywhere.
Source: Stephanie R. Cellini, Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, Urban Institute, July 6, 2009
From the abstract:
This paper reviews the literature on poverty dynamics in the United States. It surveys the most prevalent data, theories, and methods used to answer three key questions: How likely are people to enter, exit, and reenter poverty? How long do people remain in poverty? And what events are associated with entering and exiting poverty? The paper then analyzes the combined findings of the literature, discussing overarching patterns of poverty dynamics, differences among demographic groups, and how poverty probabilities, duration, and events have changed over time. We conclude with a discussion of the policy implications of these findings and avenues for future research.
Source: American Prospect, Vol. 20 no. 7, September 2009
Poverty has been low on the political agenda for the last dozen years, but a wave of fresh thinking and quiet innovation makes a new agenda possible. And the economic crisis makes it necessary.
A special report includes:
A Modern Safety Net – Shelley Waters Boots and Karin Martinson
A National Mission – James Crabtree
A New Agenda for Tough Times – Mark Schmitt and Shelley Waters Boots
Behavioral Theory – Dana Goldstein
Can Separate Be Equal? – Richard D. Kahlenberg
Don’t Forget the Men – Dick Mendel
Mis-Measuring Poverty – The Editors
Putting Poverty in Its Place – Manuel Pastor
Race, Wealth, and Intergenerational Poverty – Darrick Hamilton and William Darity Jr.
Recovering Opportunity – Alan Jenkins
The Poverty of Political Talk – Alec MacGillis
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Press Release, CB09-141, September 10, 2009
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that real median household income in the United States fell 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303. This breaks a string of three years of annual income increases and coincides with the recession that started in December 2007.
The nation’s official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. There were 39.8 million people in poverty in 2008, up from 37.3 million in 2007.
Meanwhile, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008, while the percentage remained unchanged at 15.4 percent.
Source: Maggie Tishman, Next American City, Web Exclusive, August 27th, 2009
The idea of a “poverty line” is a peculiar one, as if all the complexities of human and economic wellbeing could be summed up by a simple binary: have or have not. Born of unimaginative policymaking and perpetuated by the convenience of the status quo, such a black-and-white designation oversimplifies the complicated, dynamic and deeply personal experience of being poor. But more than 40 years since the line’s inception, it is still the barometer for all official poverty statistics collected by the government, and still serves as the baseline for nearly all anti-poverty policies.
Source: Laurie E. Felland, Johanna Lauer, Peter J. Cunningham, Center for Studying Health System Change, Research Brief No. 13, July 2009
From the summary:
Although suburban poverty has increased in the past decade, the availability of health care services for low-income and uninsured people in the suburbs has not kept pace. According to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) of five communities–Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami and Seattle–low-income people living in suburban areas face significant challenges accessing care because of inadequate transportation, language barriers and lack of awareness of health care options. Low-income people often rely on suburban hospital emergency departments (EDs) and urban safety net hospitals and health centers. Some urban providers are feeling the strain of caring for increasing numbers of patients from both the city and the suburbs. Both urban and suburban providers are attempting to redirect patients to more appropriate care near where they live by expanding primary care capacity, improving access to specialists, reducing transportation challenges, and generating revenues to support safety net services. Efforts to improve safety net services in suburban areas are hampered by greater geographic dispersion of the suburban poor and jurisdictional issues in funding safety net services. To improve the suburban safety net, policy makers may want to consider flexible and targeted approaches to providing care, regional collaboration to share resources, and geographic pockets of need when allocating resources for community health centers and other safety net services and facilities.
Source: Frank Porell, Beth Almeida, National Institute on Retirement Security, July 2009
From the summary:
Defined benefit pension income plays a critical role in reducing the risk of poverty and hardship for older Americans. Poverty rates among older households lacking pension income are about six times greater than those with such income.
The study finds that pensions reduce – and in some cases eliminate – the greater risk of poverty and public assistance dependence that women and minority populations otherwise would face.
– Press Release
– Fact Sheet
Source: Brandon Keim, Wired Science, March 30, 2009
Growing up poor isn’t merely hard on kids. It might also be bad for their brains. A long-term study of cognitive development in lower- and middle-class students found strong links between childhood poverty, physiological stress and adult memory. The findings support a neurobiological hypothesis for why impoverished children consistently fare worse than their middle-class counterparts in school, and eventually in life.
Childhood Poverty May Have Permanent Biological Legacy
Source: Brandon Keim, Wired Science, July 14, 2009
Source: The New America Foundation, July 8, 2009
Low-wage workers are some of America’s most vulnerable workers. In addition to the problem of having low wages, many have little input into the hours that they work and many have unpredictable work schedules, with the timing and amount of work hours fluctuating from week to week. A cascade of negative consequences can flow from being unable to alter work schedules or know them in advance – including unstable child care; difficulty accessing work supports and job training; transportation problems; inability to hold down a second job; loss of wages and job loss.
Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) – including both employee input into scheduling and predictable work schedules – are an important part of the solution to these problems for low-wage workers and for employers. Come join the New America Foundation’s Workforce and Family Program and Workplace Flexibility 2010 of Georgetown University Law Center as our panelists present the latest research on scheduling challenges faced by low-wage workers, highlight common sense solutions that have been implemented by businesses and discuss how public policy can enhance access to FWAs for low-wage workers.
– Low-Wage Schedules and the Child Care Struggle
Source: Lisa Guernsey, Early Ed Watch blog, New America Foundation, July 9, 2009
– Public Policy Platform on Flexible Work Arrangements
Source: Workplace Flexibility 2010, May 2009