Friday, November 16, 2012

Poverty in America

The poverty rate is higher in the United States than in other developed countries.
There is a very good article on poverty in America in last week's Economist magazine. I quote from that article:

Popular images of American poverty summon up Appalachia or Oakland—rural whites and urban blacks—and there is much truth in that. Most counties exhibiting persistent poverty—meaning counties with poverty rates of 20% or higher, consistently, from 1990 to 2010—are indeed in rural America (see map). And the overall rate of poverty is highest in large cities. While a plurality of the poor—19.2m—are non-Hispanic white, the rates of poverty are higher among minorities; over a quarter of both blacks and Latinos live in poverty, while only a tenth of whites do. 
The child-poverty rate is higher, according to a UNICEF report, than that in Japan, Canada or any European country other than Romania, and it blights lives. A child from a family in America’s bottom quintile of earners is markedly less likely than a child born into the top quintile to be ready for school at five. He is less likely to graduate from high school with decent grades; he is more likely while still of school age to become a parent or be convicted of a crime. Degrees and high earnings are even less probable. 
For most, poverty will be a temporary condition; chronic poverty remains relatively rare. But it does seem to be growing more common. Only 2.8% of Americans were poor throughout the 36 months starting in January 2004. In 2009-10, after the crisis, that share rose to 4.8%. Another problem which got worse during the crisis, but was growing beforehand, is suburban poverty. The number of poor people living in the suburbs grew 53% between 2000 and 2010 as decades of suburban flight reversed and America’s cities once again became desirable places to work, attracting back better-off suburbanites and damaging marginal suburban economies. The financial crisis made things worse, particularly in the once-booming sunbelt. As of 2008 more than a third of America’s poor live in suburbs.

I assume that the high rate of poverty in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico -- in the Four Corners region -- is concentrated in the Indian population in that region. The concentration is southern Texas is likely to be in Hispanic Americans. The concentration in the "Old South" may well by in Black populations in the old stronghold of slavery and more recent stronghold of Jim Crow.

I quote further:

Wages for low earners have been largely stagnant for the past 40 years. Between 1947 and 1967, hourly wages of private, non-supervisory workers, who comprise more than 80% of American wage-earners, grew by an average of 2.3% a year. In the past three decades, however, hourly wages rose by a paltry 0.2% annually. From 2007 to 2011 average hourly wages fell for the bottom 70% of American workers, with the steepest drops for the lowest-paid. 
As well as declines in wages, the crisis brought a sharp reduction in the proportion of the population of working age in the workforce. In the early 2000s the proportion was between 62% and 63%. By 2010 it was below 59%. The longer someone is out of work the harder it becomes to get back in, which could turn the temporary macroeconomic problem of high unemployment in the slump into a structural shift towards poverty.
Then there is deteriorating family structure among the poor.........Today the unmarried birth rate for Americans averaged across all ethnicities is higher than that, at almost 41%. For white women who did not finish high school, that proportion rises to over 60%. 
Most poor children live in single-parent homes, and most families that are poor lack married parents. More than a third of families.......with no husband present are poor, compared with fewer than one in fourteen families with married parents. 
This is a viscous cycle. It is the poor who are more likely to bring up their children in poverty. In our divided country, the poor children are not likely to get as good an education as the children of the rich and of the middle class, and from that fact in part comes the lack of economic mobility in America. A large portion of the population who are poorly educated and poorly skilled will not be good for the long term economic growth of the nation.

One final quotation:
House Republicans have sought cuts to food stamps, and overwhelmingly supported a budget proposed by Paul Ryan that would have left anti-poverty programs to bear the brunt of deep cuts to federal spending. None supported the president’s health-care reform, which was designed to make life easier for (those just above the poverty line) by offering Medicaid to people with earnings that exceed the poverty line by as much as a third (though the Supreme Court ruled that states can opt out of the Medicaid expansion, and indeed South Carolina’s governor has already vowed to do so). But the dangers are not purely partisan. Proposals to limit federal spending in order to reduce the deficit will squeeze all sorts of discretionary spending, quite possibly including successful anti-poverty programs. And the poor, unlike other interest groups threatened by discretionary-spending cuts, have few lobbyists.
Of course, all of this is in a country in which the rich are getting richer, and the very rich are getting very much richer even faster, a country in which the wealthy are lobbying Congress (often with success) for still more tax loopholes and lower taxes, a country with security provided by a professional military drawn largely from the poor.

No comments: