US Census report on poverty: statistics paint complex picture FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 11 Aug 1998 11:35:34 -0700 (PDT)


FWD http://cnn.com/US/9808/10/who.is.poor.ap/index.html
Related sites:
U.S. Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/
       Poverty report http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/cb98-136.html
The Salvation Army USA http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/home.htm
UNDP - Poverty Eradication http://www.undp.org/undp/poverty/
Commission on Homelessness and Poverty http://www.abanet.org/homeless/home.html


     STATISTICS PAINT COMPLEX PICTURE OF POVERTY

     August 10, 1998


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three in 10 Americans lived below the poverty line for
at least two months during a three-year period, but few remained poor for
longer stretches, the Census Bureau reports.

A new study released on Monday takes an unusually deep look at poverty in
the United States, using seven measures to paint a picture more complex
than any one statistic might suggest.

>From 1993 through 1995, 30.3 percent of the population lived below the
poverty line for at least two months. But just 5.3 percent of them stayed
poor for two full years.

"These statistics portray poverty as a trap door for a few and a revolving
door for many," explained the report, which examined data from those three
years.

The government considers a three-person family poor if its income is below
$13,650; for a four-person family, it's $16,450.

In 1994, on average, 15.4 percent of Americans were poor each month, and
about 22 percent -- or 55 million people -- were poor for at least two
months in 1994.

Nearly half of them stayed poor for just two to four months. About 13
percent were poor for more than two years. On average, people were poor for
four and a half months.

But the rates differ dramatically by race and family structure.

Blacks, Hispanics and children are among the poorest groups in the nation.

But the most likely to be poor were families headed by single mothers: In
1994, nearly half of the female-headed households lived in poverty for at
least two months in a row, more than three times the poverty rate of
married couples.

The difference was even more dramatic among the chronically poor. Single
moms were eight times as likely to live in poverty for two years than
married couples were to be poor for at least two years.

"You can't understate the role of family structure," said Robert I. Lerman,
an economist at the Urban Institute who studies poverty issues. Children
are most likely to be poor, no matter what the measure.

And the elderly, once the poorest Americans, are now the least likely to
live in poverty, thanks to Social Security and Medicare.

But while senior citizens are least likely to fall into poverty, once
there, they are as likely as children to remain poor. That's because they
rely on fixed incomes, which are unlikely to go up, Lerman said.

"Where are they going to get an increased income?" he asked.

The report also notes that while blacks and Hispanics have similar poverty
rates, blacks were slightly less likely to fall into poverty but slightly
more likely to stay there.


TABLE Episodic Poverty Rates: 1994
                              (Poor at least 2 months)
                                         All
                                              
                                               21.4%
                                       White
                                              
                                               18.3%
                                       Black
                                              
                                               40.2%
                                    Hispanic
                                              
                                               41.8%
                                 0 to 17 years
                                              
                                               32.4%
                                18 to 64 years
                                              
                                               18.1%
                             65 years and over
                                              
                                               13.5%
                               Married-couple
                                     families
                                              
                                               14.1%
                           Female householder
                                              
                                               48.4%
                           Unrelated individual
                                              
                                               27.0%
                                  Central city
                                              
                                               28.6%
                                     Suburbs
                                              
                                               14.9%
                              Nonmetropolitan
                                              
                                               25.4%
                           Average Monthly Poverty
                                  Rates: 1994
                                         All
                                              
                                               15.4%
                                       White
                                              
                                               12.7%
                                       Black
                                              
                                               31.2%
                                    Hispanic
                                              
                                               31.4%
                                 0 to 17 years
                                              
                                               24.5%
                                18 to 64 years
                                              
                                               12.3%
                             65 years and over
                                              
                                               10.2%
                               Married-couple
                                     families
                                              
                                               8.4%
                           Female householder
                                              
                                               39.8%
                           Unrelated individual
                                              
                                               21.1%
                                  Central city
                                              
                                               21.5%
                                     Suburbs
                                              
                                               10.0%
                              Nonmetropolitan
                                              
                                               17.5%
                             Chronic Poverty Rates:
                                  1993-1994
                               (Poor all 24 months)
                                         All
                                              
                                               5.3%
                                       White
                                              
                                               3.8%
                                       Black
                                              
                                               14.1%
                                    Hispanic
                                              
                                               13.5%
                                 0 to 17 years
                                              
                                               9.4%
                                18 to 64 years
                                              
                                               3.4%
                             65 years and over
                                              
                                               5.4%
                               Married-couple
                                     families
                                              
                                               2.1%
                           Female householder
                                              
                                               17.8%
                           Unrelated individual
                                              
                                               8.2%
                                  Central city
                                              
                                               8.9%
                                     Suburbs
                                              
                                               2.9%
                              Nonmetropolitan
                                              
                                               5.8%

END FORWARD

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
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