New Poverty Data Out: Now Time to Act!

Meredith Dodson, Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns
September 12, 2012

Today the U.S. Census bureau released its 2011 poverty and income data. 46.2 million Americans – 15 percent of us – lived in poverty last year ($23,021 for a family of four in 2011), not statistically different from 2010. Here are a few other key findings:

  • These poverty rates do not include the anti-poverty of programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit(EITC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps). The Census Bureau estimates that EITC lifted 5.7 million Americans out of poverty last year and SNAP lifted 3.9 million above the poverty line.
  • 25.1 percent – more than one in four -- children under age 5 lived in poverty, but the rates for black and Latino children were significantly higher, at 42.7 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
  • Poverty varied dramatically by state, from an estimate of over 22 percent in New Mexico to less than eight percent in New Hampshire.
  • Income inequality grew as those in the top five percent saw their income grow in 2011 while income for those at the 10th percentile declined 1.9 percent between 2010 and 2011.
  • The number of uninsured Americans dropped by 1.3 million to 16.4 percent, including 9.4 percent of all children. The drop in the uninsured rate is, in part, the result of the Affordable Care Act’s provision that allows young adults (up to the age of 26) to receive health coverage through their parents’ insurance and the continued increase in Medicaid and Medicare enrollment.

With the media intensely focused on the upcoming election, the Census data provides a great opportunity to make poverty a part of the discussion. RESULTS is focused on generating media this month to force members of Congress and political candidates to pay attention.

TAKE ACTION: Tailor our online LTE action to send a letter to the editor (also below) highlighting the poverty data and the need to protect poverty-reduction programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) – including key provisions that are scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

Looking to make a bigger difference? Join dozens of RESULTS volunteers by submitting an op-ed and/or urge your local paper to write an editorial on poverty this month. Here are some resources to help you succeed in your local media outreach:

We can do better for Americans living in poverty – but only if those like you that care about poverty in America speak out! 

PS: Here is that LTE text:

I am pleased the paper covered the release of the U.S. Census’ annual poverty report this week. The report shows that in 2011, 46 million Americans lived in poverty, including more than one in four children under age five. It is tragedy that in a country as blessed and as wealthy as ours, nearly 1 in 7 of our fellow Americans struggle to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Fortunately, we have tools to make things better. The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are very effective at poverty-reduction. In 2010, these credits lifted 9.2 million people out of poverty, more than half of them children. Firemen, police offices, teachers, even military personnel benefit from these credits, which have until recently enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Unfortunately, key improvements to these credits will expire in December and if House leadership get its way, these credits would see even deeper cuts (while millionaires and billionaires get more tax cuts). The result is simple — more children and families in poverty.

I urge Rep. ________ and Sens. _________ and _________ to put working families first. Don’t raise taxes on the poor and middle class — protect and extend the current EITC and CTC.