Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘poverty rate

Census shows widening gap between rich and poor…Is that a surprise?

The rich got richer and the poor got poorer in New York City last year.

The poverty rate reached its highest point in more than a decade, and the income gap in Manhattan, already wider than almost anywhere else in the country, rivaled disparities in sub-Saharan Africa.

ublished on September 20, 2012 in NYT:

“While the national recession officially ended in 2009 and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has repeatedly proclaimed the city’s robust recovery, the census figures released on Thursday painted a decidedly sober view of how New Yorkers are faring.

“To see the poverty rate jump almost a full percentage point is not a good sign,” said David R. Jones, the president of the Community Service Society of New York, an antipoverty advocacy and research group. “We’re still seeing really high rates of unemployment, while jobs have been growing in an anemic way and the jobs that have been created are really low-wage.”

While Mr. Bloomberg has made reducing the poverty rate, now nearly 21 percent, a priority, administration officials acknowledged that the stagnant national economy had hurt the city.

Samantha Levine, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, said on Wednesday: “These poverty numbers reflect a national challenge: the U.S. economy has shifted and too many people are getting left behind without the skills they need to compete and succeed….”

As former President Clinton recently said, ‘The old economy is not coming back,’ and that’s why the mayor believes we need a new national approach to job creation and education, one that gives everyone a chance to rise up the economic ladder.”

Median household income (the split line between the 50% incomes) in the city last year was $49,461, just below the national median and down $821 from the year before (compared with a national decline of $642). Median earnings for workers fell sharply to $32,210 from $33,287 — much more than the national decline.)

New Yorkers at the bottom end of the income spectrum lost ground, while those at the top gained.

Median income for the lowest fifth was $8,844, down $463 from 2010. For the highest, it was $223,285, up $1,919. (The difference is about 300 fold in yearly income)

In Manhattan, the disparity was even starker. The lowest fifth made $9,681, while the highest took home $391,022. The wealthiest fifth of Manhattanites made more than 40 times what the lowest fifth reported, a widening gap (it was 38 times, the year before) surpassed by only a few developing countries, including Namibia and Sierra Leone.

Only one other county in the nation, Clarke County, Ga., where nearly a third of the 117,000 residents are college students, reported a higher income gap.

Except for a decline in the poverty rate among children under 5, virtually every indicator was grim and suggested growing inequality.

Poverty rates rose most among Hispanic people, New Yorkers over age 65, married couples, residents of Manhattan and Queens, and those without a high school diploma. The citywide increase to 20.9 percent from 20.1 percent was slightly higher than the national increase, but still left the rate in New York below that of many other big cities.

Nearly 1.7 million city residents were officially classified as poor, or with an income of less than $18,530 for a family of three. Some 750,000 were subsisting on less than half the poverty level.

The proportion receiving food stamps increased to 20.6 percent from 19.3.

Among poor New Yorkers 16 and older, a third had worked full or part time within the preceding year.

“The statistics demonstrate quite clearly that our most vulnerable neighbors are far from a recovery,” said Jilly Stephens, executive director of City Harvest, which helps get emergency food to hungry New Yorkers.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 20, 2012, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Income Data Shows Widening Gap Between New York City’s Richest and Poorest.

Money can’t buy me love, but a job would be nice?

Can’t buy me love…

Greg Kaufmann posted on May 18, 2012: “This Week in Poverty: A Little Help for the Long-Term Unemployed?

“There are 12.5 million unemployed people still seeking work in the United States, and over 5 million of them have been looking for work for longer than 27 weeks.

These are “the long-term unemployed,” and their prospects for finding employment or getting assistance are rapidly diminishing.

The long-term unemployed now make up over 40 percent of all unemployed workers, and 3.3 percent of the labor force. In the past six decades, the previous highs for these figures were 26 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, in June 1983.

Instead of helping these folks weather the storm and find ways to re-enter the workforce, our nation is moving in the opposite direction. In fact, this past Sunday, 230,000 people who have been looking for work for over a year lost their unemployment benefits. More than 400,000 people have now lost unemployment insurance (UI) since the beginning of the year as twenty-five high-unemployment states have ended their Extended Benefits (EB) program.

What makes the denial of this lifeline all the more absurd is the reason for it. As Hannah Shaw, research associate at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), writes, “Benefits have ended not because economic conditions have improved, but because they have not significantly deteriorated in the past three years.”

It’s all about an obscure rule called “the three-year look-back.”

Under federal guidelines, for a state to offer additional weeks of benefits it must have an unemployment rate of at least 6.5 percent, and—according to the look back rule—the rate must be “at least 10 percent higher than it was any of the three prior years.”

“Unemployment rates have remained so elevated for so long that most states no longer meet this latter criterion,” writes Shaw. She points to California as a prime example. For more than three years, its unemployment rate has remained above 10 percent, but it fails the three-year look back test because the rate didn’t rise sufficiently. As a result, over 90,000 Californians lost their benefits on Sunday.

Prior to Congress reducing the maximum number of weeks of unemployment benefits earlier this year, there was some discussion of changing the look back rule to four years, or even suspending it. But in the end there wasn’t the political will to do it and there certainly isn’t now.

Shaw said: “Many of these people have been looking for work for well over a year and now their UI benefits have ended sooner than expected,” she says. “Many families rely on these benefits to make ends meet, and many are left with little else.”

Indeed in 2010, unemployment benefits kept 3.2 million people above the poverty line—which is roughly $17, 300 for a family of three. A report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) gives some indication of what might lie ahead for people who exhaust their benefits.

Of the 15.4 million workers who lost jobs from 2007 to 2009, half of the workers received unemployment benefits, half didn’t, and about 2 million who did receive benefits exhausted them by early 2010.

Those who exhausted benefits had a poverty rate of 18%, compared to 13 percent among working-age adults; more than 40% had incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line (below about $35,000 for a family of three), which is the level where many economists believe people start really struggling to pay for the basics.

While one might expect to see budgetary savings from reduced unemployment insurance payments, anti-poverty advocates say a shift in demand is more likely, as more people—especially families with children—turn to other safety net programs like food stamps, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Assistance will be much harder to come by for individuals or couples without children, especially since state General Assistance programs have been decimated.

It is all the more alarming—as National Employment Law Project executive director Christine Owens testifiedin Congress this week—that older workers ages 50 and up are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the long-term unemployed. They made up over 29 percent of long-term unemployed workers in 2011, compared to just 26 percent in 2007.

In 2011, more than 54% of older jobless workers were out of work for at least six months, and those high rates have continued into 2012. Owens noted that prolonged periods of unemployment can have a severe impact on older workers’ retirement prospects and later-life well-being.

In addition to legislation protecting older workers from discrimination, Owens urged Congress to invest insubsidized employment and workforce development and job training programs—vital to unemployed workers of all ages.

According to the Center for Law and Social Policy, a 2005 study of 7 States found that adults and dislocated workers receiving Workforce Investment Act (WIA) services—including job training—were 10 percentage points more likely to be employed and to have higher earnings (about $800 per quarter in 2000 dollars) than those who hadn’t received services. They were also less likely to need public assistance. A 2011 study by Washington State found that WIA services boost employment and earnings for adults, dislocated workers and youth.

House Republicans are attempting to “reform” federal workforce programs through the positively Orwellian-named “Workforce Investment Improvement Act.” When they say reform, they mean pulling out their handy-dandy, favorite tool: the block grant.

Shaw says: “Basically, the legislation would throw funding that currently is used for specialized training programs into one big pot—and reduce the amount of money in that pot.”

It’s true that job-training programs need improvement but simply cutting funding and eliminating programs won’t do a thing to help anyone. What is needed is a serious effort along the lines of what economists Dean Baker of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Kevin Hassett of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, describe in a New York Times op-ed:

Policy makers must come together and recognize that this is an emergency, and fashion a comprehensive re-employment policy that addresses the specific needs of the long-term unemployed. A policy package…should spend money to help expand public and private training programs with proven track records; expand entrepreneurial opportunities by increasing access to small-business financing; reduce government hurdles to the formation of new businesses; and explore subsidies for private employers who hire the long-term unemployed.… Managers who are filling open [government] positions should be given explicit incentives to reconnect these lost workers.

If there isn’t enough urgency for legislators and their constituents already, people should consider this: things are about to get worse. Not only did Congress fail to address the look back earlier this year, it also made changes that will shorten the number of weeks people can receive temporary, federally funded benefits after exhausting their state-run programs. Those reductions will begin at the end of this month.

“It’s not going to be as dramatic as the end of the Extended Benefits program—there won’t be hundreds of thousands of people losing their benefits all at once,” says Shaw. “But the changes are coming down the pipeline and will affect people in every state. The UI program will look very different in a few months than it does today.”

So Rich, So Poor by Peter Edelman

When it comes to public policy and poverty in the United States, few people know more about it than Georgetown University law professor Peter Edelman. He has battled poverty for nearly fifty years, most notably as a legislative assistant to Senator Robert Kennedy and as an assistant secretary of health and human services in the Clinton administration—a post he resigned in protest over the 1996 welfare reform bill. He’s taught and written extensively on the subject, too, including his new book, So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America.

Full disclosure: Edelman is a friend of mine and a mentor when it comes to anti-poverty work. I also had the opportunity to advise him on this book. Still, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t value the book, nor would he want me to.

So Rich, So Poor is a sweeping historical account and analysis of anti-poverty policy that will give readers a sense of where this nation has been—and where it’s headed—with regard to confronting (or failing to confront) poverty. Edelman examines the challenges of concentrated and intergenerational poverty, the safety net, the plight of those in deep poverty, disconnected youth, low-wage work, race and gender issues, housing policy and much, much more.

If you are a layperson, the book is a chance to absorb more than you probably ever realized is at the heart of the fight against poverty; if you are someone who has long been involved in the fight against poverty, I have little doubt you will find new ideas, angles or inspiration in these pages.

This is a man who has devoted a lifetime to fighting poverty and is passing along what he’s learned. It’s a gift, frankly.”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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