By Tatyana Walker, a Fall 2013 Intern
As Congress considers deep cuts to the safety net, data released by the Census Bureau last week show that 46.5 million people are still living in poverty and job creation has not been enough to increase average household incomes.
More than a quarter of Black and Hispanic Americans are living in poverty, compared to 9.7 percent of Whites. Black median income is a little more than 62 percent of the White median income and the Hispanic median income is almost 73 percent of the White median income. These national measures were drawn from the bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). Local-level income, poverty and health insurance data drawn from the American Community Survey (ACS) showed that incomes remained lower and poverty rates were higher in 2012 than in 2007, the year before the recession.
The ACS is an annual, community-level survey sponsored by the Census Bureau that collects demographic, social, economic, and housing information to determine what investments and services are needed in communities, as well as how to distribute more than $400 billion in federal and state funding.
Even as unemployment rates decline, government programs remain vitally important to millions of Americans – especially since, according to one report, the top one percent of average family incomes increased by 34.1 percent between 2009 and 2012 as the remaining 99 percent saw just a 0.4 percent gain.
According to the CPS data released last Tuesday, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps – lifted four million people out of poverty last year. Despite the very clear need for this program, the House of Representatives voted last week to cut its funding by $40 billion over the next 10 years.
“These cuts to the SNAP program would have a devastating impact on the communities we represent, including young children, students, older people, the jobless, the hungry, and the uninsured,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference, in a letter to Congress opposing the bill. “While we agree that it is vital to address our nation’s long-term debt, there is something fundamentally inhumane about a plan that would impose new ‘savings’ entirely on the backs of the people who can least afford them.”
To learn more about statewide poverty levels and to view interactive maps that pair data with stories from real people, check out the Half in Ten campaign, whose goal is to cut poverty in half in 10 years.