The Census Bureau will release figures tomorrow detailing the level of poverty in America in 2010. (We’ve issued brief pieces explaining what to look for in the new figures on poverty and health coverage.) The figures won’t show what it’s like to be poor, but other government data suggest that families living below or only modestly above the poverty line — which was about $22,300 for a family of four in 2010 — are the most likely to face daily hardships and that living in poverty can have damaging consequences over the long term. For example:
- Nearly half (44 percent) of poor households with children were “food insecure” in 2010, according to the Agriculture Department, meaning that at times they had trouble affording sufficient food. For households with incomes above 185 percent of the poverty line, this rate was 9 percent.
- About half (48 percent) of all poor households with children in 2005 reported one or more of four major hardships: they faced food insecurity with hunger, lived in overcrowded conditions, were behind on rent or mortgage payments, and/or were unable to go to the doctor or hospital when they needed to (see graph).
- Poor children were more than 70 percent more likely to lack health coverage than non-poor children in 2009. Over 15 percent of poor children were uninsured, compared to under 9 percent of non-poor children.
Moreover, as we’ve pointed out, research shows that poverty among young children not only slows them down in school but also may significantly shrink their earnings as adults.
Some people have suggested that many households living below the poverty line have too many possessions to be considered truly poor. But some of the possessions they cite, like a refrigerator or stove, are everyday necessities. And many were likely purchased before a job loss, serious illness, or other event pushed a family into poverty. Some families move in and out of poverty; nearly two out of five people living in poverty in 2006 were not poor two years earlier, for example.
The reality is that living in poverty places people at higher risk of hardship and is a significant barrier to equal opportunity.
As the new congressional deficit-reduction committee — which holds its first hearing tomorrow — begins work, it should keep in mind the main factors driving today’s large deficits. This well-known chart shows that the economic downturn, President Bush’s tax cuts, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years; see our May analysis for details.
This week on Off the Charts, we talked about the President’s jobs proposal, the current payroll tax cut, state budgets, welfare reform, and the poverty data that the Census Bureau will issue next week.
- On the President’s jobs plan, Jared Bernstein appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour prior to the President’s speech to discuss effective ideas for creating jobs. He also explained that the President’s plan was robust and ambitious and urged Congress to enact it sooner rather than later. Robert Greenstein appeared on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell show after the President’s speech. Chad Stone detailed how the plan would boost the economy and create jobs. And Michael Leachman pointed out that the proposed education aid to states would help save school jobs.
- On the current payroll tax cut, Chuck Marr showed that letting it expire at the end of December would harm the economy. We also highlighted new Tax Policy Center estimates of how much households in different income brackets would receive if Congress extended the tax cut for 2012.
- On state budgets, Phil Oliff discussed a Missouri proposal to raise taxes on low-income people to help pay for business tax breaks. He also detailed the findings of a Center survey showing that many states are cutting K-12 education funding this year.
- On welfare reform, Donna Pavetti testified before Congress on ways to improve the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
- On the upcoming poverty data, we listed ten things to look for regarding trends in poverty and health coverage.
In other news, we released a report explaining why Congress should not let the payroll tax cut expire and analyzed education funding cuts in a number of states. Donna Pavetti testified before Congress on issues related to TANF reauthorization. We also updated our backgrounders on the Earned Income Tax Credit and the unemployment insurance system.
We’ve issued brief reports on what to look for in the 2010 data on poverty, incomes, and health insurance coverage that the Census Bureau will release next Tuesday.
Here are the highlights regarding the poverty data:
- Poverty may well increase.
- “Deep poverty” could hit a record high.
- Looking ahead, poverty seems unlikely to improve in 2011, and there is significant risk it will remain high for some time.
- Exacerbating these problems, state and federal governments are retrenching and thereby further slowing economic growth.
- Government assistance — both ongoing programs like unemployment insurance and SNAP (formerly called food stamps) and temporary increases in these and other programs enacted in the 2009 Recovery Act — kept poverty from climbing much higher.
And here are the highlights regarding the health coverage data:
- The number and share of Americans without health coverage are likely to have hit record highs in 2010.
- An increase in the uninsured population would largely reflect the continuing decline in employer-sponsored coverage.
- The number of states experiencing significant increases since the start of the recession in the percentage of their population that is uninsured is likely to have grown further in 2010.
- The uninsured rate will remain disproportionately high among Latinos, African Americans, young adults, people living in the South and West, and households with incomes under $25,000.
- Public health insurance programs, particularly Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, are likely to have offset much or all of the loss of insurance among children that resulted from continued erosion of employer-based coverage.