One in 15 Americans now officially living in poverty as number receiving food stamps rises 8.1% in a year
By David Gardner
Shocking figures revealed today that one in 15 people in America is now living in poverty.
The number – a record high – is spread widely across metropolitan areas as the country’s economic troubles continue to bite.
And almost 15 per cent of the population are also now on food stamps, it emerged yesterday.
The ranks of the poor applying for food stamps increased by a worrying 8.1 per cent over the past year to make a total of 45.8 million.
America’s economic troubles are continuing to bite with almost 15% of the US population now on food stamps
The increase in poverty is believed to have been caused due to the housing bust pushing many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income.
‘There now really is no unaffected group, except maybe the very top income earners,’ said Robert Moffitt, a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.
‘Recessions are supposed to be temporary, and when it’s over, everything returns to where it was before. But the worry now is that the downturn — which will end eventually — will have long-lasting effects on families who lose jobs, become worse off and can’t recover.’
Once-booming Sun Belt metro areas are now seeing some of the biggest jumps in concentrated poverty.
WORST FIVE STATES
1 Mississippi 21.5%
2 New Mexico 20.7%
3 Oregon 20.6%
4 Tennessee 20.2%
5 Louisiana 19.9%
About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 per cent of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 per cent or less of the official poverty level.
Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty line. In 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $5,570 or less for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four.
That 6.7 percent share is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has maintained such records, surpassing previous highs in 2009 and 1993 of just over 6 percent.
After declining during the 1990s economic boom, the proportion of poor people in large metropolitan areas who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods jumped from 11.2 per cent in 2000 to 15.1 per cent last year, according to a Brookings Institution analysis released on Thursday.
As a whole, the number of poor in the suburbs who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods rose by 41 per cent since 2000, more than double the growth of such city neighborhoods.
Suburban households are less likely to receive SNAP benefits, but usage is on the rise with about nine per cent of households
Poverty for Americans 65 and older is on track to nearly double after factoring in rising out-of-pocket medical expenses, from nine per cent to more than 15 per cent.
Poverty increases are also anticipated for the working-age population because of commuting and child-care costs, while child poverty will dip partly due to the positive effect of food stamps.
JOBLESS CLAIMS DROP FOR THIRD STRAIGHT WEEK
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to the lowest in five weeks, government data showed on Thursday, in a hopeful sign for the struggling job market.
Initial jobless claims totalled 397,000 in the week ending October 29, down from a revised 406,000 claims the previous week, the Labor Department reported.
The claims number was lower than the average analyst estimate of 401,000, and provided a positive reading on the depressed job market ahead of Friday’s October jobs data.
It was the third time in six months that weekly initial jobless claims have fallen below 400,000.
Last week’s reading was the lowest since September 24, when claims stood at 395,000.
But applications need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth.
They haven’t been below that level since February. Applications have been above 400,000 for all but two weeks since March.
The figures come a day before the government releases its October jobs report.
Analysts expect employers added 100,000 net jobs, nearly the same as the 103,000 added in September. The unemployment rate is expected to stay at 9.1 per cent for a fourth straight month.
Employers have added an average of only 72,000 jobs per month in the past five months. That’s far below the 100,000 per month needed to keep up with population growth. And it’s down from an average of 180,000 in the first four months of this year.
And with one in 15 in poverty, more than one in four of working age are now tapping food stamps.
According to Department of Agriculture figures, worst hit were people in Mississippi, where more than 21 per cent were recipients.
One in five residents in Tennessee, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana also depended on the hand outs – formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – to eat.
Officials fear the numbers may swell even more in the coming months as people battle financial hardship and record unemployment.
But one reason for the rising number of recipients was that many states have waived requirements limiting the assets food stamp applicants could own, said the Wall Street Journal.
The number of food stamp users exploded after the recession hit in late 2007 and has continued growing even though the downtown is officially supposed to be over.
Researchers from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire estimated that the percentage of Americans receiving food stamps increased by 61.2 per cent between 2007 and 2010.
Reliance on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programme was very high among single parents, rising ten per cent.
In 2010, 42 per cent of single mothers and 25 per cent of single fathers relied on the stamps. In rural areas it was ever higher at one in two single mothers.
States also made changes to make it easier for residents to tap into the program, such as waiving requirements that limited the value of assets food stamp recipients could own.
This is believed to have been caused due to the housing bust pushing many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income.
‘There now really is no unaffected group, except maybe the very top income earners,’ said Robert Moffitt, a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University. ‘Recessions are supposed to be temporary, and when it’s over, everything returns to where it was before. But the worry now is that the downturn — which will end eventually — will have long-lasting effects on families who lose jobs, become worse off and can’t recover.’
The institute also found that 14.6 per cent of rural households were relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme in 2010.
Suburban households are less likely to receive SNAP benefits, but usage is on the rise. About nine per cent of suburban households received SNAP in 2010, up from 5.4 pe rcent in 2007.
Jessica Bean, a vulnerable families research associate with the Carsey Institute, said she thinks rural residents have traditionally been less likely to collect SNAP benefits because they live in remote areas where it’s hard to access social services and are more concerned with the social stigma.
In a rural area, she said: ‘When you go into the grocery store and you pull out your food stamps card, everybody knows you.’
Just one in ten married couples with children are using the government-funded food benefit.
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