Friday, November 04, 2011

Land Of The Free, Home of the Poor

While this report is really not all that surprising, its implications are still staggering.

The ranks of America's poorest poor have climbed to a record high — 1 in 15 people — spread widely across metropolitan areas as the housing bust pushed many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income.

New census data paint a stark portrait of the nation's haves and have-nots at a time when unemployment remains persistently high. It comes a week before the government releases first-ever economic data that will show more Hispanics, elderly and working-age poor have fallen into poverty. ...

About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the official poverty level. Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty line. In 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $5,570 or less for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four.

And who are these "poorest of the poor"? The answer is shocking, or at least should be because it defies conventional wisdom:

Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research associate at Brookings, described a demographic shift in people living in high-poverty neighborhoods, which have less access to good schools, hospitals and government services. As concentrated poverty spreads to new areas, including suburbs, the residents are now more likely to be white, native-born and high school or college graduates — not the conventional image of high-school dropouts or single mothers in inner-city ghettos. ...

...Poverty for Americans 65 and older is on track to nearly double after factoring in rising out-of-pocket medical expenses, from 9 percent to over 15 percent. Poverty increases are also anticipated for the working-age population because of commuting and child-care costs, while child poverty will dip partly due to the positive effect of food stamps.
[Emphasis added]

That's not a pretty picture, and it's one that will get uglier in the coming years as unemployment continues in the 8-9% range, as predicted this week by the Fed. Putting people back to work might roll back these numbers, but it's an election year and congressional Republicans are more interested in pinning the economy on the incumbent than in trying to fix the problem by approving job creation programs that would work for all, rather than the 1%.

And people wonder why Occupying Wall Street continues to strike a responsive chord with so many disparate parts of the population.

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