Sunday, October 3, 2010

Poverty in the United Sates

Poverty Rates in the United States from the Census September 2010 Report

The Census released a devastating report this month on poverty in the United States. The article was discussed nationally in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  According to summary findings that I have reformatted below:
  • "The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. 
  • The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.
  • In 2009, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.1 percent and 8.8 million, respectively, up from 10.3 percent and 8.1 million in 2008.
  • The poverty rate and the number in poverty increased across all types of families:
    • married-couple families (5.8 percent and 3.4 million in 2009 from 5.5 percent and 3.3 million in 2008)
    • female-householder-with-no-husband-present families (29.9 percent and 4.4 million in 2009 from 28.7 percent and 4.2 million in 2008) and 
    • for male-householder-no-wife-present families (16.9 percent and 942,000 in 2009 from 13.8 percent and 723,000 in 2008)."
An interactive map of these recent poverty rates sorted by congressional district can be seen here (as pictured below), with (Whatcom County)  District 2 detail:
Recent changes in Poverty and Child Poverty Rates from Census Data as provided by the "Half in Ten" Project
Also, two devastating stories appeared within this month on family poverty:

    1.  The Wall Street Journal's  "These Families Shop When Aid Arrives"
    2.  The LA Weekly's "The Family Prostitute"
    The first story details with an unusual shopping behavior apparently taking place across the nation's chain grocery stores.  Families on assistance are shopping just prior to the midnight refresh of their WIC or other benefit cards.  The reason is unclear, but apparently families are stretched so thin on food they literally can't wait until the morning after their benefits are electronically refreshed to buy food for their families. The article includes a shocking Department of Agriculture chart showing that the number of Americans on food stamps has increased approximately 15 million in the last four years. 

    The data is consistent with an article in Seattle Times on Washington State's increasing use of food stamps. USDA SNAP data show that Washington State has 494,192 households participating as of June 2010, approximately a 23 % increase year over year.  For the nation, over 19 million households are now participating in the SNAP (food stamp) program.  This is a significant increase from the 11.6 million households participating as of October 2006.

    The second story deals with the increasing stream of working mothers who are flocking to Nevada to secure family income through the sex trade. Despite the fact that the young women interviewed seem satisfied with their new found income, I found the story saddened me. I personally can't imagine that working mothers choose to sell their bodies because they have simply found a better economic alternative. The comments in the article seem to reflect their desperation in finding employment of any type that would take care of their families. With "29.9% of female-householder with no husband present families in poverty" (see statistics above) , such sentiment should not surprise anyone.

    No comments: