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Hardship in America, Part 1: Majority of Poor Children Live in Households with Major Hardships

November 21, 2011 at 4:44 PM

Note: With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the Center thought this was a good time to look at the latest figures on various indicators of hardship. This is the first in a series of posts on this subject that CBPP will do this week.

Poverty rates rose in 2010 under a variety of poverty measures, as the economic downturn continued and long-term unemployment hit record highs. Lest anyone doubt that this is a serious problem requiring attention, new CBPP analysis finds that more than half (52 percent) of poor children last year lived in households that faced one or more of the following:

  • hunger (what the Agriculture Department now terms "very low food security"),
  • overcrowded living conditions (more than one person per room),
  • failure to pay rent or mortgage on time, or
  • failure to receive needed medical care.


11-20-11pov.jpgThat's three times the 17 percent rate for households with incomes at or above twice the poverty line, as the graph shows. (Not all of these hardships affect the children; some affect other household members.)

Fortunately, government assistance can make a difference in poverty -- and, it is fair to conclude, hardship.

Earlier this month, Census reported that while poverty rose significantly in 2010 under a new poverty measure (the Supplemental Poverty Measure) that takes both cash income and government assistance into account, government assistance kept poverty from being even higher.

Also, a CBPP analysis found that nearly twice as many people would count as poor in 2010 if one leaves out the income they received from assistance programs. In particular, a handful of government initiatives enacted in 2009 and 2010 kept nearly 7 million people out of poverty in 2010.

Unfortunately, those initiatives are expiring, many states have cut programs that help low-income families, and some budget-cutters in Congress are targeting such programs for further cuts.

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