The U.S. Census Bureau’s release of 2012 poverty data tells us once again that millions of Americans in our wealthy nation continue to struggle at the economic margins, with no signs of progress. The nation’s just-released official poverty rate in 2012 was 15.0 percent, which represents 46.5 million people living at or below the poverty line. This marks the second consecutive year that neither the official poverty rate, wages, nor the number of people in poverty was statistically different from the previous year’s estimates.
Have we become so used to these annual reports that we no longer pay much attention? I hope not.
Research by the University of Michigan’s H. Luke Shaefer and Harvard’s Kathryn Edin shows a sharp rise in the number of people living on less than two dollars per person per day — a World Bank standard used to document global poverty. But in this case, these people live in the U.S. For some of our fellow citizens, two dollars is expected to buy, well, everything.
How is it that in the wealthiest country in the world, people can fall so far? And does it mean we are fighting the War on Poverty with a losing strategy?
People in poverty in the U.S. fit many descriptions, and to lump them together would indeed be a losing strategy. Thirteen percent are seniors who depend on Social Security and SSI. About 10 percent are people with disabilities who are unable to work, and their children. Some 61 percent are in working families.