Poverty Facts

 

United States Poverty Facts
9/3/03 updated

Nobody is ever impoverished through the giving of charity.
--Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Matanot Aniyim

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Poverty Rate

For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy. ~Deuteronomy 15:11

  • In 2002, the poverty threshold was $18,392 for a family of four (the median household income was $42,228), $14, 348 for a family of three, $11,756 for a couple and $9,183 for a single. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002, press release 9/26/03)
  • 34.6 million people lived in poverty in 2002. That’s 11.7% more than 2001. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002, press release 9/26/03)
  • 7.2 million families lived in poverty in 2002, up 300,000 from the year before. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002, press release 9/26/03)
  • The record low poverty rate was 11.1%, set in 1973. (AP-U.S. Poverty Rate Hits 27 year low NY Times 9/25/01)
  • The median household income fell to $42,228 in 2001. (Census Bureau, Washington Post 9/25/02)
  • The South has the highest poverty rate – 13.8 million. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002, press release 9/26/03)
  • For a family of four, the majority of Americans believe it takes $35,000 annually to provide adequately. (2000 Poll by Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates for Jobs for the Future)
  • The working poor compose 7.2 million of those living in poverty; 56% of these live in families with children. (United States Catholic Conference Poverty Quiz, 2002)
  • Of the over 25 million that live inside a metropolitan area, half of those live outside central cities. (U.S. Census, Current Population Survey, 2001)
  • Among people who are considered low income but are above the poverty line, 71 percent said they worry about becoming poor at some point in their life. (Poverty Pulse Poll by the Market Research Bureau, December 2001)
  • Most of the increase in poverty in 2001 was experienced by white households and in suburban and rural areas, particularly the South. This is unlike previous recessions. (Washington Post, 9/25/02)
  • More than half of the nation’s before taxes were earned by the highest-earning 20% of households in 2001, for the first time. The top 5%, with incomes above $150,000, earned 22.4% of the national income, up from 22.1% in 2000. (Census Bureau, Washington Post, 9/25/02)


Poverty Among Children Under 18

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. ~Mother Theresa

  • 12.2 million children lived below the poverty line in 2002. (US Census, NY Times, 9/3/03)
  • 19.8% of children under 5 are growing up poor in America now - 2002. (US Census, NY Times, 9/3/03)
  • Half of children under 6 living in women-headed households are poor. (U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2001, NYT 9/25/01)
  • 5 million American children are “extremely poor”, in families with incomes below half the poverty line (In 2000, the extreme poverty line was $6,930 for a family of three). (National Center for Children In Poverty, Child Poverty Fact Sheet 2002)
  • A quarter of the urban homeless are children under 18. (United States Catholic Conference Poverty Quiz, 2002)
  • One-third of all children in the United States have parents who can’t work their way to economic self-sufficiency any time soon. (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2003)
  • The United States’ child poverty rate is substantially higher (often two to three times) than that of most other major Western industrialized nations. (National Center for Children In Poverty, Child Poverty Fact Sheet 2002)

Employment Picture

Through faith we experience the meaning of the world; through action we give the world meaning. ~Rabbi Leo Baeck

  • The unemployment rate in June 2003 for those 16+ was 6.4% of the total US population. (US. Department of Labor, 2003)
  • Alaska has the highest minimum wage for any state. It is $7.15. (The New York Times, 9/903)
  • The nation’s median hourly wage in 2002 was roughly $12 an hour according to the Economic Policy Institute. (The New York Times, 9/9/03)
  • Of the millions of white Americans 16+ living in the US, 5.5% are unemployed, compared to 11.8% of the black/ African-American population. 8.4% of the Hispanic/Latino population is unemployed, as of June 2003. (US. Department of Labor, 2003)
  • 6.4 million Americans are working full-time but living in poverty. (U.S. Department of Labor, March 2002)
  • Federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour. (U.S. Department of Labor) The last increase was 1997.
  • In 2000, "a greater percentage of the poor had one full-time worker in the family than in 1993" -- 44.5% compared with 36%. (U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2001)
  • 1 in 6 non-elderly Americans live in families with incomes below twice the federal poverty line and in which all adults work, on average, at least 1,000 hours a year (Acs, Gregory, Katherine Ross Phillips and Daniel McKenzie. Playing By the Rules But Losing the Game: America’s Working Poor. The Urban Institute. May 2000).
  • The majority of the working poor -- 64% -- are full-time workers. And only a very small percentage of the working poor (3.5%) actively sought a job for more than six months without finding any work. (U.S. Department of Labor, A Profile of the Working Poor, February 2001)
  • The annual earnings of a full-time, full-year worker making $6 an hour—well above the federal minimum wage, $5.15 per hour—are too low to lift a family of three above the poverty line. Even families with slightly higher earnings who take advantage of programs like food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit still must pay work-related expenses and struggle to make ends meet. (Acs, Gregory, Katherine Ross Phillips and Daniel McKenzie. Playing By the Rules But Losing the Game: America’s Working Poor. The Urban Institute. May 2000)
  • The CEO - worker pay gap is currently 411-1. In 1982 it was 42-1. (2003, United for a Fair Economy)


Labor Unionizing

You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. ~Deuteronomy 24:14

  • 13.2% of salary- or wage-based workers in the country were unionized in 2002. That’s 16.1 million people. (AFL- CIO)
  • There are currently 65 unions affiliated with the AFL- CIO. (AFL- CIO)

 

Women

The Torah begins and ends with acts of loving-kindness.~Talmud: Sotah 14a

  • Although 75 percent of women work at jobs nationally, 40 percent of them earn wages below poverty level. (Miami Herald, Letter to the Editor, 4/26/03)
  • Women hold two-thirds of all minimum-wage jobs, but their wages have seen virtually no increase in real dollars in more than 30 years. What they do earn isn't enough to break the cycle of poverty. (Miami Herald, Letter to the Editor, 4/26/03)
  • A girl who drops out of school has a 90 percent chance of living in poverty as an adult. (Miami Herald, Letter to the Editor, 4/26/03)
  • A child growing up in a violent home is at greater risk for living with more violence later in life. (Miami Herald, Letter to the Editor, 4/26/03)
  • Households headed by single women are the fastest growing segment of the nations' poor. (Miami Herald, Letter to the Editor, 4/26/03)
  • In 2000, women comprised just over half of the adult population, but constituted 61% of all poor adults. (“Under the Margins”, Dollars and Sense, Sept/Oct. 2002)
  • 28% of Americans living in a woman-headed household are poor (U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2001).
  • Single-mother families in the US have never constituted more than 13% of all families; however, they form just under half of all poor families. (“Under the Margins”, Dollars and Sense, Sept/Oct. 2002)
  • A mother who works full-time at minimum wage ($5.15/hr) to support one small child translates to earnings of $10,712 per year, which is $1,157 below the 2001 poverty line for a family of two (United States Catholic Conference Poverty Quiz, 2002).
  • In 2001, 13% of all women were poor. (U.S. Census Bureau, March 2002)

 

Homeless

When a person begs for food and clothing, there must be no investigation of his need, we are told: “ When thou seest the naked…cover him.”~Talmud

  • Every day 24 families enter homeless shelters and nearly 8,571 children are homeless. (Citizens’ Committee for Children Executive Budget Fiscal Year 2002)
  • Homeless families are 75% of NYC’s shelter population, including 13,000 children during the winter of 2001-2002. (Pollitt, Katha. Four Rms, Rent Slashed, Sad Vu. The Nation 4/29/02)
  • Families comprise 37% of the homeless population. (United States Catholic Conference Poverty Quiz, 2002)
  • Single men and women comprised 45% and 14% of the homeless population, respectively (United States Catholic Conference Poverty Quiz, 2002).

Food Insecurity (Hunger Issues)

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, if he be thirsty, give him water to drink… ~Proverbs

  • America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest network of food banks, reports that 23.3 million people turned to the agencies they serve in 2001, an increase of over 2 million since 1997. Forty percent were from working families (Hunger in America 2001, America's Second Harvest, http://www.secondharvest.org/whoshungry/hunger_study_intro.html )
  • Approximately 13.6 million children under age 12 (29%) live in families that face hunger or the risk of hunger (Food Research and Action Center).
  • Thirty-three million people—including 13 million children—live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents one in ten households in the United States (10 percent). (ERS Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. (FANRR) 21, United States Department of Agriculture, March 2002.)
  • The number of people who received food stamps in 2001 decreased by over 10 million since 1994, a drop of over one-third in program participation (Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. 7. 28 pp, United States Department of Agriculture, June 2000. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/fanrr7/)

 

Housing

The respect we owe to our neighbors is not an isolated single commandment but represents rather the whole content of morality, the quintessence of our duty. ~Rabbi Leo Baeck

  • In 40 states, renters need to earn more than two times the prevailing minimum wage to afford a modest one- or two- bedroom rental. In MA, CA, NY, NJ, MD, CT they need to earn more than three times the minimum wage. (“Out of Reach 2003” study issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, reported in The New York Times, 9/9/03)
  • The national media housing wage necessary to afford a standard two-bedroom rental unit is $15.21 an hour, up 37% from 1999 according the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The housing wage is the income a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental. (The New York Times, 9/9/03)
  • In MA, the most expensive state for housing, the housing wage for a modest two-bedroom rental is $22.40 an hour. (The New York Times, 9/9/03)
  • In DC the housing wage for a modest two-bedroom, the housing wage is $23.42 an hour. (The New York Times, 9/9/03)
  • There must be more than 2 full-time minimum wage workers in a household in order for the household to afford a 2 bedroom housing unit at the Fair Market Rent at $13.87 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. (www.nlihc.org/oor2001/introduction.htm).
  • Today in no state does a full-time manufacturing wage job enable a family to afford this federal fair market rent. (Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies (2001),Voll, Nondas Hurst. Nonprofit developers produce solutions. National Alliance for Choice in Giving: Workplace Giving News, Spring 2002).
  • The housing allowance for a family of three on welfare is $286 a month. (Pollitt, Katha. Four Rms, Rent Slashed, Sad Vu. The Nation 4/29/02)
  • 1 million households have been wait-listed for at least 10 years for public housing in spring 2002 (Voll, Nondas Hurst. Nonprofit developers produce solutions. National Alliance for Choice in Giving: Workplace Giving News, Spring 2002).

 

Health Insurance

Let it not be said that life was good to us, but rather, that we were good to life. ~Rabbi Jacob P. Rudin

  • 41.2 million people didn’t have health insurance in 2001. The proportion of the population without insurance in 2001 was 14.6% up from 14.2% in 2000. (Washington Post, 9/30/02, NYT 1/8/03)
  • 11.7% of all children, 21.3% of poor children and 30.7% of all poor people were uninsured for the entire year in 2001. (NYT, 9/30/02)
  • 50.3% working full time were uninsured in 2001, compared with 16% of all full-time workers, according to the Census Bureau. (NYT 9/30/02)
  • Three-quarters of uninsured people live in families where at least one family member works full time. (Bell, Howard. The Uninsured: Myths and Facts. The New Physician September 2000)

 

Racial Inequality in Poverty

The first requisite of civilization…is that of justice. ~Sigmund Freud

  • 85% of prisoners in the US are black or Latino. (Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
  • The poverty rate of 22.1% for blacks in 2000 set a record low, though it still lags behind the national average (AP-U.S. Poverty Rate Hits 27 year low NY Times 9/25/01).
  • Half of all Asian/Pacific Islanders and American Indians live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites (Medscape Health www.cbshealthwatch.medscape.com)
  • Though they make up 28% of the U.S. population, people of color constitute 43% of Americans living in poverty. (US Census, Current Population Survey, 2001)

 

Black and Hispanic Populations

Whatever I want for myself, I want the same for that other person. ~Maimonides, Sefer HaMitzvot

  • The South is home to more than half the nations black population. (US Census Bureau, March 2002)
  • 68% of black men were employed in the civilian labor force (over age 16); yet the unemployment rate for blacks was twice that for non-Hispanic whites, at 11%. (US Census Bureau, March 2002)
  • Over half of all black married- couple families reported an income over $50, 000. (US Census Bureau, March 2002)
  • One quarter of the poor population was black in 2001. About 8.1 million people lived below the poverty level, and the poverty rate was 23% for blacks. 30% of black children live in poverty. (US Census Bureau, March 2002)
  • More than one in eight people in the US are of Hispanic origin, with 66.9% from Mexico. 44% live in the west, and 35% live in the South. The Northeast has the least amount of the Hispanic population, at over 20%. (US Census Bureau, March 2002)
  • 15 million Hispanics, or 40% were born outside the US. (US Census Bureau. March 2002)
  • 8.1% of Hispanics in the civilian labor force were unemployed (over age 16). (US Census Bureau, March 2002)
  • Over 21% of Hispanics lived in poverty. Although they represented 13% of the total population, they were 24% of the poor population. Over 30% of all poor children in the US were of Hispanic origin, but they only constituted 18% of the total children population. (US Census Bureau, March 2002)

 

Immigrant Populations

Let other people's dignity be as precious to you as your own.
~Rabbi Eliezer

  • 11% of Americans are immigrants. (US Census, 2000, Urban Institute, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies, Migration Policy Institute)
  • 33% of immigrants lack health insurance. (US Census, 2000, Urban Institute, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies, Migration Policy Institute)
  • 25% of low-wage workers are immigrants. (US Census, 2000, Urban Institute, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies, Migration Policy Institute)
  • 25% of immigrants live illegally in the US. (US Census, 2000, Urban Institute, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies, Migration Policy Institute)
  • 20% of households are headed by immigrants who receive welfare. (US Census, 2000, Urban Institute, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies, Migration Policy Institute)

 

Philanthropy

It is not what one says, but rather what one does that makes all the difference in the world. Pirke Avot 1:17

  • 66% of Americans donated money to September 11th relief efforts, making an average gift of $134. 27% gave blood or made other types of non-cash gifts. (survey; Center on philanthropy at Indiana University and the Association of Fundraising Professionals)
  • 44% of all adults claim to have contributed to an organization to help the poor in the past year. 13% indicated that they had done nothing in this regard. (Topline Report)
  • Confidence in charities has remained high since the September 11th attacks and the subsequent controversy at the American Red Cross—89% of those surveyed expressed confidence in the Red Cross (survey for the Brookings Institute’s Center for Public Service Dec. 2001)
  • Donations to non-profits last year grew 5.15 percent, after adjusting for inflation, compared with an average gain of 11.4 percent for the boom years of 1997 through 2000. (Charity Navigator, 2003)
   
 
 
                   
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