New Government Poverty Figures Paint Incomplete Picture of Struggling Low-Income Families

For Immediate Release

Bread for the World
Contact: 

Bill Malone 202-464-8180 bmalone@bread.org
Shawnda Hines 301-960-4913 shines@bread.org

New Government Poverty Figures Paint Incomplete Picture of Struggling Low-Income Families

WASHINGTON - New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the percentage of Americans in poverty increased from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 12.5 percent in 2007.  However, these figures do not paint a complete picture of America's struggling low-income families.

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World said it's important to bear in mind that the numbers reflect data from 2007, prior to the effects of the worsening economic downturn the nation has suffered this year. 

"Also conspicuously absent from these latest figures is the impact that drastically increasing living expenses such as healthcare, childcare, transportation, and housing have had on low-income families," said Rev. Beckmann.  "The current way we measure poverty in the U.S. is woefully out of date.  It assumes that food consumes a third of a family's budget, which does not reflect today's realities and fails to capture the true extent of the hardship experienced by American families."

He added that work support programs like the Food Stamp Program, Earned Income Tax Credit and child care and housing assistance have been shown to reduce poverty.  "We must strengthen our social safety nets to better help struggling families," he urged.

Additional Census Bureau Report findings for 2007 include:

  • For children younger than 18, the poverty rate increased from 17.4 percent in 2006 to 18 percent in 2007, bringing the number of children living in poverty to 13.3 million. 
  • For Hispanics, 21.5 percent were living in poverty in 2007, up from 20.6 percent in 2006. Poverty rates remained statistically unchanged for non-Hispanic whites (8.2 percent), blacks (24.5 percent) and Asians (10.2 percent) in 2007.
  • The number of people living in poverty in the South increased to 15.5 million in 2007, up from 14.9 million in 2006.

According to Rev. Beckmann the new poverty data and a recent government report on rising job losses in 2008 reinforce the urgent need for Congress to enact a second economic stimulus package.  He warned that it suggests that rebate checks from the first economic stimulus package of 2008 helped to mitigate the impact of the slowing economy but not boost it.  Many economists are concerned that the economy will further slow down later this year as the tax rebate money is spent.

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