Tuesday, December 20, 2011

1 of 2 Americans are now living in poverty!

 1 of 2 in America is low income
100 comments by Hope Yen - Dec. 14, 2011 11:19 PM
Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans, almost one in two, have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low-income.
The latest census data depict a middle class that is shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.
"Safety-net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010. But for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too rich to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public-policy professor who specializes in poverty.arget="_blank" href="http://gannett.gcion.com/adlink/5111/328990/0/154/AdId=2199700;BnId=1;itime=137534871;nodecode=yes;link=http://ads.pointroll.com/PortalServe/?pid=1484226R19320111103214116&pos=c&r=[RANDOM]"><img border="0" width="160" height="600" src="http://ads.pointroll.com/PortalServe/?pid=1484226R19320111103214116&pos=i&r=[RANDOM]"></a>
"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near-poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."
Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll-tax cut, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that also could trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending. That is money set aside for payments to individual Americans under such programs as Social Security for retirement or the Medicare health plan.
Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that although safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far, citing poor people who live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.
"There's no doubt the recession has thrown a lot of people out of work and incomes have fallen," Rector said. "As we come out of recession, it will be important that these programs promote self-sufficiency rather than dependence and encourage people to look for work."
Mayors in 29 cities say more than one in four people needing emergency food assistance do not receive it. Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold -- roughly $45,000 a year for a family of four -- because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are eating up to half of a family's income.
States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families,  including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million.
About 97.3 million Americans fall into the low-income category, commonly defined as those earning 100 to 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty.
Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That is up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.
The new measure of poverty takes into account medical, commuting and other living costs. Doing that helped push the number of people below 200 percent of the poverty level up from the 104 million, or one in three, that was reported in September.
Broken down by age, children were most likely to be poor or low-income, about 57 percent, followed by older people, those older than 65. By race and ethnicity, Hispanics topped the list at 73 percent, followed by Blacks, Asians and non-Hispanic Whites.
Even by traditional measures, many working families are hurting.
Following the recession that began in late 2007, the share of working families who are low- income has risen for three consecutive years to 31.2 percent, or 10.2 million.
That proportion is the highest in at least a decade, up from 27 percent in 2002, according to a new analysis by the Working Poor Families Project and the Population Reference Bureau, a non-profit research group based in Washington.
Among low-income families, about one-third were considered poor while the remainder, 6.9 million, earned income just above the poverty line. Many states phase out eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, tax credit and other government aid programs for low-income Americans as they approach 200 percent of the poverty level.
The majority of low-income families, 62 percent, spent more than one-third of their earnings on housing, surpassing a guideline for what is considered affordable.

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