As we think about what we have to be thankful for this holiday season, it’s important to remember that millions of Americans are having trouble affording basic necessities. Below are the most current figures available in five important areas.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
In 1926, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that the rich “are different from you and me,” and Ernest Hemingway supposedly retorted, “Yes, they have more money.” The recent recession didn’t change things much.
Describing the social and economic costs of growing income inequality, economist Robert Frank explained in yesterday’ New York Times that while the first three decades after World War II were a time of broadly shared prosperity, income gains over the next three decades went almost entirely to the very wealthy. You can see the striking contrast in the graph below.
Today, we sat down with Arloc Sherman, Senior Researcher in the Center’s Welfare Reform and Income Support Division, to discuss “deep poverty” and how it affects families.
Several thousand impoverished elderly or disabled refugees who fled persecution in such troubled places as Afghanistan, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and Cuba lost their badly needed Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits last week. Thousands more will lose their SSI eligibility over the coming year. A last-minute push in Congress to preserve these modest benefits failed before lawmakers left town to campaign for re-election; restoring those benefits should be high on lawmakers’ to-do list when they return to work in mid-November.
Following up on its September 16 release of national data on poverty in 2009 (which we analyzed here), the Census Bureau today released poverty data for the state and local levels showing that poverty rose in 31 states and fell in none. We analyzed the new data and found that the percentage of people in deep poverty — that is, with incomes below half the poverty line — rose by a statistically significant amount in 28 states in 2009. (See table.) It dipped in one state, Wyoming. Between 2000 and 2009, the share of the population living in deep poverty increased in 36 states.
As a Center report explained last week, the new Census data for 2009 reflect the harsh impact of the recession, as poverty and the ranks of the uninsured grew considerably while median incomes among working-age households fell.
Last week, we highlighted our analysis of the Census Bureau’s new poverty data, in which we found that unemployment benefits kept many Americans out of poverty and economic hardship in 2009. Food stamps helped, too. In fact, the increase in the number of Americans with income below the poverty line is nearly three times as great if you don’t count unemployment benefits and food stamps as if you do.