Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

child poverty

According to the latest fact sheet from the National Center for Children in Poverty, both the number and percentage of children in or near poverty increased from 2008 to 2014 (the latest year for which data are available).
Here’s what else we know:

  • More than four in ten U.S. children are living close to the poverty line. In 2014, 44 percent of children under age 18 (31.4 million) lived in low-income households and 21 percent lived in poor families (15.4 million). This is much higher than at the start of the Great Recession in 2008, when 39 percent of children were considered low income and 18 percent lived in poor households.
  • Children remain more likely than adults to live in poverty. While 44 percent of children live in low-income households, only one-third of adults between 18 and 64 years of age live in these households. In addition, children are more than twice as likely as adults 65 years and older to live in poor families.
  • While children with a full-time, year-round employed parent are less likely to live in a low-income family, compared to children with parents who work part-time or part-year or who are not employed, it is still the case that 31 percent of children with at least one parent who works full-time, year round (16.1 million) live in low-income families and 9 percent of children with at least one parent who works full-time, year round (4.6 million) live in poor families.

I don’t see how the project of making America either “great again” or “whole” is going to fix the growing problem of child poverty.

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About one in twenty Americans—or almost 16 million people—are struggling to survive in conditions of “deep poverty.” As Eduardo Porter observes, “No other advanced nation tolerates this depth of deprivation.

Clearly, as can been seen in the chart above, the number of people below 50 percent of the poverty threshold would be higher—more than three times higher—without some form of government assistance.* Still, the persistence of such poverty a fundamental change in the nature of government anti-poverty programs—from helping all poor people to increasing benefits only to those who work.

All in all, in the early 1980s more than half of government transfers to low-income families went to the very poorest. Thirty years later these families received less than one-third of the government’s help.

This choice, as a society, to target most of our help only to those who can help themselves exhibits a blinkered understanding of what perpetuates the deep, intractable poverty that affects many communities. But it serves a purpose. By believing the poor are not exerting enough effort, we allow ourselves not to care. This permits politicians — and voters — to go normally about their business while 16 million Americans live on $8.60 or less a day.

One might argue that fundamental change in anti-poverty programs, starting with Clinton’s 1996 welfare overhaul, represents an increasingly cruel and callous country, one that seeks to punish a large portion of the population that it has pushed into deep poverty. Alternatively, it’s a sign that the key criterion for government programs is not to alleviate poverty per se but to put increased pressure on poor people to be forced to have the freedom to work for someone else.

In the United States, we often refer to poor people as being “dependent” on government assistance. But the real dependence we have to face up to is the use of government programs to force people to make themselves available so that someone else can profit from their labor.

*The number and rates are calculated according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which includes the value of cash income from all sources, plus the value of in-kind benefits (such as nutritional assistance, subsidized housing, and home energy assistance) that are available to buy the basic bundle of goods, minus necessary expenses for critical goods and services not included in the thresholds.

 

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