ITHACA — During this season of unbridled consumerism, when endless political ads are replaced by endless holiday commercials, take a moment before busting down your favorite 24-hour shopping mecca to remember the poor — the number is growing. The U.S. Census Bureau Wednesday released new poverty figures showing 49.7 million Americans living in poverty, higher than 46.2 million the government reported in September.
What’s different is that the new supplemental poverty measurements take into account medical and work expenses. The standard poverty level is more than 50 years old, at a time when food was considered to comprise one-third of a family’s budget. Today, food is much smaller portion of family expenses while housing, daycare and other expenses consume a much larger segment.
People 64 and older, Hispanics and urban residents are the face of poverty under the Census’s supplemental poverty figures. Another demographic suffering under the economic strain: full-time and part-time workers employed in low-paying jobs.
“We’re seeing a very slow recovery, with increases in poverty among workers due to more new jobs which are low-wage,” University of Wisconsin economist Timothy Smeeding told the AP. Those in the workforce age 18-64 witnessed their level of poverty increase to 15.5 percent, up from 13.7 percent in the official poverty measure. The more realistic poverty yardstick includes commuting and child care — two areas which weigh heavily on low-income workers.
People 65 and older saw their rate of poverty almost double to 15.1 percent, up from 8.7 percent in the official standard. Those increases were due primarily to medical expenses and drug costs. If Social Security was eliminated, the poverty rate for this age group would soar to more than 54 percent — and 24.4 percent for all ages, the government announced.
At the other end of the spectrum, childhood poverty drops from 22.3 percent to 18.1 percent under the new measurement.
Other U.S. population groups also saw their rates of poverty rise under the Census Bureau’s supplemental measurement. The Hispanic poverty rate would hit 28 percent from the official 25.4 percent.) Likewise, U.S. Asians would see their poverty rate jump to 16.9 percent, up from 12.3 percent. The reason: both groups are less likely to seek help due to their immigrant status or presence of non-English-speaking adults.
Source: Associated Press