Entries in Poverty (5)


More Americans Than Ever in Poverty

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Great Recession has changed the face of poverty in America.

More people -- 46.2 million - live in poverty today than at any other time in American history. And compared to the 1990s they are more likely to be white, live in the Midwest, have a high school diploma and own a home, according to a Brookings Institute report released Thursday.

“This has been a really tough decade economically,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, an author of the Brookings Institute report. “After two economic downturns and falling incomes over the 2000s, we’ve seen that [poverty rate] push back up. It’s likely that we have not seen the last of the increases in America’s poor population.”

With manufacturing jobs disappearing and unemployment sticking above nine percent, poverty rates in some Midwest cities, such as Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, have doubled over the last decade. And in the South, poverty in some metro areas, such as El Paso, Texas and Baton Rouge, La., has increased by more than a third, according to the report.

“These communities tend to have higher crime rates, worse health outcomes for residents, schools are often poorer performing and there are fewer job opportunities and networks to connect people with jobs,” Kneebone said.

But despite these recent increases, America has seen darker days when it comes to people in poverty.

“Obviously we are not in a Great Depression,” said Linda Barrington, the managing director of Cornell University’s Institute for Compensation Studies. “We cannot make a comparison to what was happening then. But that doesn’t give us a lot to celebrate about.”

While there was no official poverty measure during the Great Depression, scholars estimate that about one-third of American families were critically poor. That is more than double the 15.1 percent poverty rate in 2010. However, because the population has nearly tripled since 1940, there is a larger number of Americans in poverty today than during the Great Depression.

“The point is [that] it is really high,” Barrington said. “But it’s not historically high.”

In fact, since an official poverty line was developed in the 1960s, the poverty rate has peaked above 15 percent only twice, in 1993, when it was also 15.1 percent, and in 1983, when it hit 15.2 percent.

To be classified as impoverished, a family of four has to earn less than $22,314 and an individual has to make less than $11,139, or about $30 per day.

“In the United States today, [poverty] doesn’t necessarily mean children starving in the streets and homeless people, although they are a small part of the poverty story,” said Shawn Fremstad, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “It is more about struggling, and running up debts, and cutting corners and all sorts of those things because of economic pressure.”

Both Fremstad and Barrington said the best way to lower the poverty rate is to jump-start the economy so it creates more jobs.

“The single most important thing is getting a job,” Barrington said. “If you’re poor and don’t have a job, you don’t have savings. You have to get money to get above the poverty line and you get money by working.”

While the national poverty rate is above 15 percent, only about seven percent of people working full time are below the poverty line.

“You can get the rate down from 15 to five by getting a lot more people employed,” Barrington said. “So jobs are the first thing.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Latino Children Outnumber All Other Races of Poor Children in US

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- There are now more Latino children living in poverty in the U.S. than any other ethnic group of poor youngsters.

According to a Pew Research Center report, it's the first time that white children have not been the biggest group of kids living in poverty.

Pew estimates that 6.1 million Latino children are poor, with those living in single-mother households in the majority.  About two-thirds of poor Latino youngsters are the kids of immigrants.

Meanwhile, Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, now representing 16.3 percent of all people in the U.S.

During the recession years of 2007 to 2009, the childhood poverty rate for Latinos jumped by 36.3 percent compared to 17.6 percent for whites and 11.7 percent for blacks.

However, the overall rate of black children living in poverty is still higher than Latinos, 39 percent to 35 percent.  The rate for white youngsters is 12.4 percent.

Currently, the poverty rate in the U.S. stands at 15.1 percent with 22 percent of all children living under the poverty line.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Census Report Shows Struggles of American Families

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An estimated 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty last year, or 15.1 percent, the highest rate since 1993, new data from the Census Bureau released Tuesday showed.

Median household income declined at the same time and the number of people without health insurance coverage rose, highlighting the consequences of the recent recession.

The nation's 2010 poverty rate increased 0.8 points from 14.3 percent in 2009, while the percentage of children living in poverty last year rose 1.3 points to 22 percent from the previous year, according to the Census Bureau. The poverty rate also rose for people between the ages of 18 and 64 from 12.9 percent to 13.7 percent.

Since the recession began in 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points. The average poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,314.

Blacks and Hispanics experienced the greatest poverty levels, with the poverty rates among those groups coming in at double the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

The South saw the greatest increase in its poverty rate, rising at double the rate of the Northeast, Midwest and West.

As the poverty rate increased nationwide, real median income in 2010 declined by 2.3 percent from the previous year to $49,445, according to the Census Bureau.

Black households experienced the greatest decline in median income, while non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics and Asians experience relatively little statistical change. Median household incomes were lowest in the South.

While the poverty rate rose and the median household income declined, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose to 49.9 million, up 900,000 since 2009. But at the same time, the number of insured increased to 256.2 million from 255.3 million.

Nearly 10 percent of children younger than 18 did not have health insurance coverage. Asians saw the greatest increase in the number of people without insurance while Hispanics saw the most people obtaining insurance.

As many young people have struggled to find jobs, 5.9 million young adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are now living with their parents, compared to 4.7 million before the recession. Young adults living with their parents had an official poverty rate of 8.4 percent. Based on their individual incomes alone, however, 45.3 percent of those living with their parents are living at the poverty rate.

The 2010 estimates come one year after the end of the recession and reflect similar trends from previous recessions. The poverty rate increased in the first calendar year after the end of the past three recessions, but the poverty rates decreased the subsequent year for the recessions that ended in 1961 and 1975.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Florida Family of Five Found Living in 'Filthy' Car Outside Walmart

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MOUNT DORA, Fla.) -- Three children -- one suffering from second-degree burns -- were taken into protective custody Monday after they were discovered living with their parents in a "filthy" car in a Walmart parking lot.

Police were called to the parking lot Monday morning in Mount Dora, Fla., where they found the family of five living in a 1987 Cadillac Coupe de Ville full of clothes and garbage. Police told the Orlando Sentinel that days-old chicken bones were strewn about the car, along with a spoiled carton of milk and a bottle of tequila.

The illegal prescription drug clonazepam was also found in the car, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The parents, Justin Hamilton, 31, and Kristin Harris, 26, were booked into Lake County Jail on charges of child neglect and possession of an illegal prescription drug.

The oldest child, a 7-year-old girl, was treated at the hospital for blistering second-degree burns covering her entire back, said Carrie Hoeppner, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The two boys, ages 4 and 1, were initially released to relatives before they were taken into protective custody. The 7-year-old was released from the hospital and into custody with her brothers.

"We hate to break families up, but there is a difference between living in poverty and squalor and filth," Hoeppner said. "And if you look at the pictures, that is obviously the case."

Hamilton, who, along with Harris, denied ABC News' request for a jailhouse interview, did tell the Sentinel from behind bars that it was all a misunderstanding.

He said the family had been evicted from their apartment and, after a dispute with relatives, had been forced to stay the night in their car. The father of three said the family had simply fallen on hard times.

He said his business had slowed down, he was behind on medical bills from a motorcycle accident earlier this year and that he was trying to make ends meet by doing odd jobs and day labor.

"I didn't know where else to go," Hamilton told the Sentinel. "I'm trying."

He said his daughter's severe second-degree burns were sustained during a day of paddle boating on a local lake and added that the family's physician had examined the burns and provided the girl with aloe lotions.

Hamilton has a previous conviction for cocaine and marijuana possession in 2010, according to court records, which also show Harris has a previous conviction for shoplifting groceries and marijuana possession.

Hamilton is being held on a $10,250 bond, while Harris' bail was set at $10,000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hunger and Children in America: a Slow and Steady Starvation

George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A little two-year-old boy came to the hospital hungry, not just for dinner, but every day of his young life. He is smaller than he should be and his organs, including his brain, are not developing fully. And he lives in Boston, one of America's most prosperous cities.

Doctors at Boston Medical Center's Grow Clinic, which provides assistance to children diagnosed with "failure to thrive," say they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of children they treat who are dangerously thin.

"What's so hard is that a lot of families are working so hard," said Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at BMC. "They are working jobs. They are earning money and their dollars just don't go far enough."

That is life for nearly 15 million children living in poverty in the U.S., according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Some of their stories were depicted in first-person picture stories by 40 women in Philadelphia who documented their family life for a project called "Witnesses to Hunger." It was a graphic record of what it is like to live in crowded bedrooms and open a largely empty refrigerator and pantry.

Pauline S. told ABC News that while she had some macaroni, Spaghetti-Os, noodles, and peanut butter and jelly in her pantry Wednesday night, the food would be gone by next week.

"It really hurts being a mother to see and to feel the hurt for my children," she said. "Not being able to give them what they want and not being able to have everything that other children have -- it hurts a lot."

The number of children living in poverty in the U.S. is up nearly 20 percent from 2000, according to the NCCP, because of higher unemployment and foreclosures. It's a problem across the nation but children are the worst off in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. They fare better in New Hampshire, Minnesota and Massachusetts.

U.S. food banks say they face slow and steady starvation rather than sudden African famine.

"We talk about global hunger and we have extended tummies and we have sad eyes," said Marie Scannell, executive director of the Food Bank of Somerset County in New Jersey. "That's not what you'll see. For instance, in Somerville, N.J., you'll see sadness in the children's eyes. That's really the worst part for us."

Across the country, nearly 5.5 million children live in families that have lost homes to foreclosures, and eight million children live in families in which at least one parent has lost a job, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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