u.s. poverty
It is stunning news. The U.S. poverty rate has decreased for the first time since 2006; this statistic including an amazing nearly two percent drop in poverty for individuals under the age of 18.

According to the 2013 Income and Poverty Report in the United States, there was another significant drop in poverty for three other demographics within the country. This includes a 1.5 percent drop for those living outside of metropolitan areas, reflecting the fact that more than 900,000 people have been elevated out of poverty in rural areas since last year.

The report also noted that for families, poverty rates fell by more than half of a percent; for married couples, more than 1.5 percent between 2012 and 2013. These statistics translate into the fact that over half a million families have lifted themselves above the poverty line.

Among the Latino community, there was almost a two percent drop meaning that nearly a million Latinos have elevated themselves out of poverty.

However, for all other areas of the report – age, work experience, place of birth and gender – no significant difference was recorded between 2012 and 2013.

Despite the amazing news, the report emphasized the issue that these declines are not statistically significant improvements given that the overall decrease was only a half of a percentage point, equating to 1.5 million people rising out of poverty in a population of 317 million. Furthermore, many of the above numbers consist of individuals who could be placed in multiple categories. The reality is that there are still over 44 million U.S. citizens below the poverty line.

Many turn to the government and demand that it intervene by offering more monetary assistance. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the government programs that already exist include Social Security, SNAP, earned income credits, Medicare and progressive income tax. As such, if none of these programs were in place, there would be an extra 40 million people in poverty nearly doubling the already existing amount. Tom Gorman reported in his book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Economics, that, unfortunately, “there is no political consensus on further addressing the effects of poverty in the United States.”

Professor Peter Edelman, author of the book, So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, offered up his advice on how to further reduce poverty levels within the U.S.  According to Professor Edelman, there needs to be “more jobs that pay decent wages.” He cites one of the largest growing demographics is single-parent households and it is this demographic that finds it difficult “to earn a living income from the jobs that are typically available.” According to the Economic Policy Institute, a third of U.S. jobs pay less than $34,000 a year while a quarter of U.S. jobs pay below the poverty line at $23,000 a year.

Professor Edelman goes on to explain that the U.S. needs “a full-employment policy and a bigger investment in 21st-century education and skill development strategies.” It is here that the U.S. can retrieve itself from the long time economic malaise where it currently resides. The strategy that Professor Edelman outlined involves drawing together the varied demographics present in the U.S. toward the common goal of assisting one another. In the words of Professor Edelman, “change has to come from the bottom up and from synergistic leadership that draws it out.”

Frederick Wood II

Sources: Time, United States Census, New York Times, Info Please
Photo: Flickr