|Issue of the Day Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category|
Real Median Income Gained as Poverty Held Steady in 2007
Published Friday, July 24th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
The new report on the US official poverty rate released by the US Census Bureau called “Income, poverty and health insurance coverage in the United States: 2007” has stated that real median household income in the United States climbed 1.3% between 2006 and 2007, reaching $50,233. The US official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5% (37.3 million), which is steady from 2006 (36.5 million). This and other influences has lead the number of people without health insurance coverage to decline from 47 million (15.8%) in 2006 to 45.7 million (15.3%) in 2007.
Broken down, minorities also gained in real median income adjusted for inflation, which rose between 2006 and 2007 for black ($33,916 in 2007) and non-Hispanic white households ($54,920 in 2007), the first such increase since 1999. However, for Asians ($66,103 in 2007) and Hispanics ($38,679 in 2007) real income did not change. The family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 9.8% and 7.6 million, unchanged from 2006. As for Female-householders/No-Husband-Present the rate was 28.3% (a decrease of 2.8 percentage points) and 13.6% for those with male householder and no-wife-present. The US Office of management and budget has updated the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2007 as $21,203, for a family of 3 at $16,530, 2 at $13,540, and 1 at $10,590.
According to Health and Human Services, the welfare rolls have been rising in most states over the last year. In the some of the hardest-hit areas, one would think the rolls would raise the most; yet, the numbers are decreasing. Utah is leading the trend as rolls have increased by 29% more cases than last year. Yet, Michigan, a state facing the highest unemployment, has experienced 4.8% reductions in welfare rolls. Authorities suggest that some may be leaving the state for better prospects or the ones who are staying are receiving unemployment benefits. The usual assistance provided by unemployment puts many beyond the eligibility of welfare. Some advocates believe the strict provision of the 1996 revamp of Welfare System has slowed down applicant’s entry into welfare. Nationally, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Alaska, Montana, New Jersey, and Nebraska all have falling rolls.
As of 2006, the most current data from the Current Population Reports, the Federal Poverty Threshold or poverty line for families of 4 rest at $20,614, an increase of nearly $5,000 from a decade ago. The most vulnerable, children, as of 1996 had experienced near 23% poverty rate; this had dropped to 15% by 2000 and increased after to 17% by 2006. Likewise, families experienced the same rate of decline and leveling to 10.8%; those with only female heads-of-households reached 30.7%.
According to the Child and Youth Well-Being Index Project at Duke University, gains made since 1975 in family economic well-being could be endangered over the next few years. The measure of family economic well-being is measured by a combination of poverty rate, median annual income, parental employment and health insurance coverage for children. The report describes a connectivity between the different measures and predicts that more than one out of five American children will live in poverty in 2010, with African-American and Hispanic children experiencing twice the level of poverty.
The United States has remained near the bottom of the industrialized countries in regards to child poverty rates, exceeded only by that of Mexico. The rate of child poverty in the US has in recent years flattened at the rate of 16.9% as of 2007. As for the other measures of the index, the average hourly real earnings for US workers has shrunk to $8.23 an hour (1982 dollars) in 2008. Except for the Asian population, the characteristics of families living in poverty suggest that children are more likely to live with their mother and be impoverished. Plus, since 2000, the number of children enrolled to the SCHIP (State Child Health Insurance Program) has more than doubled from 2000 to 7.145 million in 2007.
Those uninsured and working poor who are trying to qualify for public health programs have received an economic helping hand as the 2009 Federal Poverty Level (FPL) guidelines were increased to reflect the increases in the Consumer Price Index. The Current Population Survey for 2009 has raised the poverty threshold—the dollar amount the Census Bureau uses to determine poverty status—for a family of 4 to $21,203. As a result, the number of citizens who can now qualify of free or low cost government health insurance has risen.
In 2007, more than 36.5 million people, about 12.5% of the U.S. population were living in poverty. The poverty threshold for 2009 has increased by 2.8% over the 2006 and 2007 thresholds. At the same time, since 1980, the Health Care Consumer Price Index has experienced annual increases ranging from $6.2 billion to the recent 2007 $14.9 billion climb. This has resulted in the percentage of those uninsured to steadily rise to an average 15.3% of the total US population as health insurance prices rise to compensate. However, only 33% of the 47 million uninsured Americans are now eligible but are not signed up, which leaves 31.49 million without recourse to health care insurance.
This week in Denver, the President signed the $787 billion stimulus package that streaked its way through Congress. The final bill is split into 36% for tax cuts and 64% percent in spending and money for social programs. Overall, it is $38 billion different from the original plan President Obama had introduced earlier in January. Highlights include:
• $787 billion total, $38 billion subtracted from original
• $308 billion in total spending, $142 billion subtracted (Federal Budget)
• $190 billion in Federal Aid for Education, Public Safety, Low-income, Individual and Health Care (Number of U.S. citizens below the poverty level)
• $288 billion in tax relief ($800—down from $1000—tax cuts for families, $400 tax cuts for individuals through social security payroll deductions, Business, Manufacturing, Economy, Infrastructure, Energy and other tax cuts), $13 billion added (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $48 billion for infrastructure, $42 billion subtracted (Spending on infrastructure)
• $90 billion Medicaid aid to states, $3 billion added (Public and private expenditures for health care)
• $53.6 billion to aid state in education, $25.4 billion subtracted
(Spending for the Department of Education)
• $44.6 billion for additional school funding to balance education budgets, prevent cutbacks and modernize schools, $3.6 billion added (Average finances by school district size and Higher education spending)
• $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, $9 billion subtracted
(Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $18.6 billion for health care technology incentives and research for effective treatments, $5.4 billion subtracted (Cost per patient per day and per stay)
• $16 billion for Science/technology, equal (Research funds for science and technology)
• $15.6 billion to increase Pell Grants by $500, $0.6 billion added
Of course, this is just the combined highlights; the Stimulus and Recovery Act is well over 1,000 pages long. The administration, in an effort to become more tranparent, has set up a site in which anyone can track how and where the money is being spent: www.recovery.gov
The first piece of legislation that President Obama signed was a bill called the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which relaxed the workers’ rights to sue by relaxing the statute of limitation to 6 months from every time a worker gains a paycheck. Lily’s law came from the battle she experienced from suing her former employer for years of back pay from when she was paid less than her male colleges. The lower courts agreed with her, but as the case went to the Supreme Court, it was overturned and Lily only got 6 months back pay from the last check she received. During Bush’s term, Congress launched an unsuccessful bill that would overturn the Court’s decision. Bush’s reasoning pointed to inciting more lawsuits and a potential for employees to wait and pile up rewards before filing suit. The resurgence of bipartisan support for the bill has indicated the belief on both sides in the need for such legislation.
The hope for this bill is that it will try to correct the tendency of women to be paid less than their male counterparts, as well as to be disproportionately impoverished. For every race except Asian, the percentage of those female heads of households who experience poverty is double their male counterparts and triple married couples.
In 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina food stamp usage hit an all time high, used by 30 million Americans. With unemployment hitting 6.5% in October of this year and food prices 6.1% higher than last year, the use of food stamps and food pantries are rising to those historic records. Government data states that 11.9 million Americans went hungry at some point last year, this includes 700,000 children, which is 50% higher than the previous year .
To be eligible for these programs a family of four must earn less than or equal to 130% below the federal poverty level or $27,564. Benefits average $109.93 a month per person and the max is set at $588 a month. In September, inflation in food prices created a $64 shortfall in the benefits meeting the USDA Thrifty Food Plan requirements. The October inflation adjustment of benefits brought it up to meeting that USDA standard, however, the food pantries visits are up 20-100%. There have been two measures in Congress in the last year to bump up the food stamp program 10-20%, yet they have not passed.