New Data on Poverty, Same Old Problems?

English: Income inequality, United States, 197...

English: Income inequality, United States, 1979-2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Last week the Census Bureau released the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS), the source of official national poverty estimates for 2012.  This treasure trove of data lets the public explore a plethora of statistical measures of poverty at local, regional and national levels.  But does this new data reveal anything we didn’t already know about poverty?  Or are we faced with the same old problems.

Following is a list of some quick takeaways from the new Census Bureau data:

The data seem to suggest that things are not improving for America’s most vulnerable citizens.  Yet Congress is working to make huge cuts to vitally important safety net programs, such as SNAP, and few seem to be resisting.

Despite the closing of the period of national economic downturn known as “The Great Recession”, the divide between rich and poor remains extremely large.  While the American economy has improved, the economic situation for poor and middle class Americans has not.  Perhaps this is the biggest takeaway from this new data; the experiences and worries of the poor and middle class are converging.

While many in our society still view the poor as an unworthy “other”, the harsh realities of poverty are becoming apparent to an increasing number of Americans, with four out of five struggling with some aspect of poverty for at least part of their lives.  When having a job does not mean making enough to support oneself, perhaps the American public will wake up to the fact that drastic reforms need to take place if we are serious about eliminating poverty in America.  Maybe widening social and economic inequality will demonstrate that what politicians are doing is not working for the majority of Americans.

Americans need more economic and social welfare programs, such as Head Start and TANF, and progressive legislation, such as an increase in the minimum wage, to help lift them out of poverty, not less.  It is the responsibility of everyone to make sure that these stifling statistics on the poor are shared and discussed, so that hopefully we will collectively be able to end these social ills that affect us all.

–          There are many organizations you can get involved with to fight poverty.

–          There are also lots of great resources where you can find out more about poverty.

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James McComas

I bring a background in researching and writing to the Campaign Consultation team for my role as Administrative and Project Assistant. Prior to joining Campaign Consultation, I was a research intern for BUS 52, a year-long project which sought out organizations and individuals across the continental United States who worked to positively change their communities in innovative ways. I also assisted a journalist researching climate change issues. Read more.

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