Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance; Coverage in the United States: 2011.” After seeing the largest number of individuals in poverty ever recorded in 2010, the 2011 Census data indicates that the poverty rate continues to remain unchanged at 15%. Though the poverty rate has not changed, a staggering 46 million people – including 21 million children – in communities across the nation live in poverty.
Poverty is measured by calculating the cash income of a family. To put things into perspective, a family of four must have had an annual income of less than $23,000 to be identified as living in poverty in 2010. Though the poverty rate remains the same, the disparity between our nation’s highest-income earners and low and middle-income earners continues to grow. In 2011, the top 5% of earners saw their aggregate income grow by 5.3%, whereas most middle and low-income earners saw their aggregate income decrease.
Though the statistics are bleak, the 2011 Census data indicates that there are programs that can reduce poverty rates and provide some relief to those in need. For example, the Earned Incomes Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are not included in the poverty calculations. However, had they been counted, EITC would decrease the number in poverty by 5.7 million individuals (including 3.1 million children) and SNAP by 3.9 million people (including 1.7 million children).
These poverty rates are more than just statistics in our nation’s communities – they are a stark reality that are often accompanied by several challenges. A recent report from the Brookings Institution highlights the increasingly high rate of concentrated poverty. Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty – neighborhoods where more than 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line – often face additional struggles, such as high crime rates and limited access to transportation, quality education and healthcare.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy is dedicated to securing equal opportunities for children and families by improving the communities, policies and systems they are surrounded by each day. For a look at CSSP’s take on the 2011 Census data and how children, families and communities are impacted by poverty, check out CSSP’s Statement on 2011 Poverty Data. For a more detailed look at the poverty data and how policymakers can work to improve these conditions, check out CSSP's Policy for Results Blog.