Monday, March 05, 2012

extreme poverty in the u.s. has more than doubled since 1996

thecomingdepression | A policy brief recently issued by the National Poverty Center (NPC) reveals that the number of households in the US living on less than $2 a day per person has increased by 130 percent since 1996, from 636,000 to some 1.46 million today.

This means that some 4 million people in “the richest country on earth” (according to US capitalism’s apologists) are surviving on less than $60 a month each, i.e., essentially on no income whatsoever.

The policy brief, authored by H. Luke Shaefer, University of Michigan, School of Social Work, and Kathryn Edin, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, studies the results of the fifteen years since the 1996 “welfare reform” signed into law by President Bill Clinton, which fatally slashed the social safety net.

“This reform,” the authors comment, “has been followed by a dramatic decline in cash assistance caseloads, from an average of 12.3 million recipients per month in 1996 to 4.4 million in June 2011; only 1.1 million of these beneficiaries are adults.

“Thus, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, while millions of American parents continue to experience long spells of unemployment, they have little access to means-tested income support programs. Has this produced a new group of American poor: households with children living on virtually no income?”

The answer is yes.

In studying the most deprived in the US, the policy brief, whether pointedly or not, explains that the researchers developed “a definition based on one of the World Bank’s main indicators of global poverty, meant to measure poverty in developing nations.” They adopt the World Bank’s standard for determining the poorest of the global poor, subsistence on $2 a day or less.

The study draws data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) collected by the US Census Bureau from sample households every four months. The most recent data comes from the beginning of 2011.

In passing, the study notes that participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, has increased from an average of 25.5 million recipients per month in 1996 to 45.2 million in June 2011, a 77 percent increase in a decade and a half.

Children have been especially hard hit. The brief estimates that “about 2.8 million children lived in extreme poverty at the beginning of 2011.… This was roughly 16 percent of all children in poverty.” The number of households with children in extreme poverty has risen sharply since November 2008. The study dismisses the notion that the American safety net “is strong, or even adequate, when one in five poor households with children are living without meaningful cash income.”

As to the demographics of families living in destitution, the NPC researchers found that 37 percent of the households in extreme poverty in 2011 were headed by a married couple and 51 percent by a single female.

Some 48 percent of these households were headed by white non-Hispanics, 25 percent by African Americans and 22 percent by Hispanics in 2011. The report comments, “Thus, extreme poverty is not limited to households headed by single mothers or disadvantaged minorities, though the percentage growth in extreme poverty over our study period was greatest among these groups.”


nanakwame said...

I find this a good overview, yet; I find that some of us fall into that one variable about poverty life too, even here....

nanakwame said... g_d

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