Poverty Levels on Rise

July 24, 2012

The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net, says the Associated Press.

Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall, but the Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent.

The predictions for 2011 are based on separate AP interviews, supplemented with research on suburban poverty from Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution, and an analysis of federal spending by the Congressional Research Service and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.

  • The analysts' estimates suggest that some 47 million people in the United States, or 1 in 6, were poor last year.
  • An increase of one-tenth of a percentage point to 15.2 percent would tie the 1983 rate, the highest since 1965.
  • The highest level on record was 22.4 percent in 1959, when the government began calculating poverty figures.

Poverty is closely tied to joblessness. While the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent in 2011, the employment-population ratio remained largely unchanged, meaning many discouraged workers simply stopped looking for work. Food stamp rolls, another indicator of poverty, also grew.

Demographers also say:

  • Poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent for many more years.
  • Suburban poverty, already at a record level of 11.8 percent, will increase again in 2011.
  • Part-time or underemployed workers will rise to a new high.
  • Poverty among people 65 and older will remain at historically low levels, buoyed by Social Security cash payments.
  • Child poverty will increase from its 22 percent level in 2010.

Analysts also believe that the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the poverty level, will remain near its peak level of 6.7 percent.

Source: Associated Press, "Poverty Levels on Rise," Politico, July 22, 2012.

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http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0712/78809.html

 

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