Based on the formula implemented by the Census Bureau, California tops the list as the sate most likely to bring about poverty. The top five is rounded out by the District of Columbia, Arizona, Florida and Georgia.
Maryland, which has had the highest median income of all states since 2006, was the only state in the country to have a median income above $70,000 in 2011.
The median income of the poorest state in the country, Mississippi, was just over half that of Maryland, the richest, and has fallen every year since it peaked in 2007, dropping $2,677 during that time. Not only did Mississippi have the highest poverty rate in the country, but 7.8% of Mississippi families made less than $10,000 in 2011, which was also the worst rate in the country. While unemployment declined in most states between 2010 and 2011, Mississippi's actually rose 0.2 percentage points, one of only two states to see an increase.
What’s the agenda going forward? The heart of it is creating jobs that yield a living income. Restoring prosperity, ensuring that the economy functions at or near full employment, is our most powerful anti-poverty weapon. We need more, though—a vital union sector and a higher minimum wage, for two. We also need work supports—health care, child care, and help with the cost of housing and postsecondary education. These are all income equivalents—all policies that will contribute to bringing everyone closer to having a living income.
There’s a gigantic problem here, however: We look to be headed to a future of too many low-wage jobs. Wages in China, India, and other emerging economies may be rising, but we can’t foresee any substantial increase in the prevailing wage for many millions of American jobs. That means we better start talking about wage supplements that are much bigger than the Earned Income Tax Credit. We need a dose of reality about the future of the American paycheck.
The fact that there are more blacks in poverty than among the near poor likely stems from the fact that the unemployment rate among blacks is nearly double that of whites, said Robert Moffitt, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins. And they have much higher rates of single motherhood, he said. Whites, on the other hand, likely have enough earnings to put them just above the poverty line.
Another large group among the ranks of the near-poor are senior citizens. Nearly 17% of the near poor are elderly, while only 7.8% of those in poverty are.
The authors first review some basic facts about the nature of poverty in the United States: according to the March Current Population Surveys, poverty rates are generally higher among children than among adults. In 2003, children were approximately 29 percent of the non-elderly population but they constituted 40 percent of the non-elderly poor; 17.6 percent of all children lived in households with incomes below the poverty line. Overall, only 7 percent of those living in households headed by a married individual were poor, whereas households with an unmarried head and children present -- 83 percent of which were headed by women -- had poverty rates of 40.3 percent. Likewise, the probability of being poor varies tremendously by race: blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be poor than whites, even though most of the poor are white.
The persistence of poverty also depends strongly on individual and family characteristics. Among those beginning a spell of poverty, about 83 percent of white children living in two-parent households headed by someone with at least a high school education will escape long-term poverty. In contrast, only 10 percent of poor black children in a household headed by a single woman without a high school diploma will avoid it.
Child poverty rose to 22 percent, from 20.7 percent.
Poverty among seniors remained unchanged at 9 percent
Poverty levels rose across all racial and ethnic groups except Asians, which remained at 12.1 percent. Poverty among Hispanics increased to 26.6 percent; among blacks it rose to 27.4 percent; among whites it climbed to 9.9 percent.
Households in the Midwest, South and West experienced declines in real median income between 2009 and 2010, while median household income in the Northeast was not statistically significant.
In 2010, the number of families living in poverty was 9.2 million, up from 8.8 million in 2009. The family poverty rate also increased, from 11.1 percent in 2009 to 11.7 percent.
There were also increases in the poverty rate / the number in poverty for both married-couple families (6.2 percent / 3.6 million in 2010, up from 5.8 percent / 3.4 million in 2009), and for female-householder-with-no-husband-present families (31.6 percent / 4.7 million in 2010, up from 29.9 percent / 4.4 million in 2009).
Since 2007 - when the '07-'09 recession began - the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points. Although the 2010 rate is 7.3 percentage points lower than in 1959 when the rate was first estimated, it is its highest since 1993.
The change in income inequality between 2009 and 2010 was not statistically significant, although shares of aggregate household income by quintiles showed a slight shift to increased inequality.
Women's earnings for full-time, year-round work in 2010 were 77 percent that for men - not statistically different from the 2009 ratio.
The first thing needed if we’re to get people out of poverty is more jobs that pay decent wages. There aren’t enough of these in our current economy. The need for good jobs extends far beyond the current crisis; we’ll need a full-employment policy and a bigger investment in 21st-century education and skill development strategies if we’re to have any hope of breaking out of the current economic malaise.
This isn’t a problem specific to the current moment. We’ve been drowning in a flood of low-wage jobs for the last 40 years. Most of the income of people in poverty comes from work. According to the most recent data available from the Census Bureau, 104 million people — a third of the population — have annual incomes below twice the poverty line, less than $38,000 for a family of three. They struggle to make ends meet every month.
Half the jobs in the nation pay less than $34,000 a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. A quarter pay below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000 annually. Families that can send another adult to work have done better, but single mothers (and fathers) don’t have that option. Poverty among families with children headed by single mothers exceeds 40 percent.
"The number of males who are working has fallen by over 3 million workers since 2007, and last year it fell by another 650,000. So that's very disturbing," he says.
Employment among women also shrank, and the percentage of the employed who are only working part-time also grew. This pushed more and more people below the poverty line, which the Census Bureau defines as a family of four with income below about $22,314 a year.
The Census Bureau says short of sleeping on the streets, many more people are doubling up — living with friends and relatives. Since the start of the recession, the number of doubled-up households has grown about 10 percent to almost 22 million. And this past spring, almost 6 million young adults ages 25-34 were living with their parents — more than a million more than before the downturn began. The bureau says almost half of these young adults would be considered poor if their parents weren't supporting them.
Another disturbing figure is the continued rise in child poverty. Last year, 22 percent were poor. Sheldon Danziger, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan, says this does not bode well for future prosperity.
Experts expect the new poverty measure will increase the percentage of people classified as poor, especially among elderly Americans. Poverty rates will probably increase from 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million people, to 15.8 percent, or 47.4 million, reports the Associated Press. (Read here about the recession's effect on the poverty rate.) The new measure may bring about a more dramatic change in the senior citizen poverty rate because of rising medical expenses, says Wight.
Are there alternative ways to measure poverty?
Considerable research has been conducted on better methods to measure income poverty, but to date, the political will necessary to implement change has been lacking. In the early 1990s, Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to investigate alternative measures. The NAS panel of experts issued a report in 1995 that recommended revising the poverty level and the method of determining which families are poor.3 The panel’s recommendations included the following:
Create new poverty thresholds that more accurately reflect the cost of food, clothing, and shelter.
Adjust thresholds by region to account for variation in the cost of living.
When counting families’ resources to determine whether they fall below the poverty line:
use families’ post-tax income;
include earned income tax credits and the value of near-cash benefits (such as food stamps and housing assistance); and
subtract the cost of work-related expenses (such as child care and transportation) and medical care.
The news from a US Census Bureau report released Thursday underscores how deeply the Great Recession has affected the nation's standard of living. The key findings of report, which compared income, poverty rate, and health-care insurance coverage in 2009 with 2008 numbers, include the following.
1) Some 43.6 million people were living in poverty last year - the highest number since 1959, five years before President Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty. The poverty rate was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 and the highest level since 1994...