Poverty Rates Hit Record Highs

By IINE Development Intern

According to newly released 2010 US Census Bureau statistics, the national poverty rate hit a 17-year high last year, climbing to a staggering 15.1% of the population. Approximately 46.2 million people were living in poverty in 2010, the largest segment of the population documented in the 52 years estimates have been published.

This rate increase was certainly a causal factor in the 2.3% drop registered in the median household income, which places the 2010 weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four at $22,314. Another determinant of the drop may be a recently noted regional market reality (hardly regionally confined): the number of Massachusetts workers who have accepted part-time positions because they were unable to secure full-time work has grown 400% in the last decade.

No matter the causal factors of these trending patterns (which show few signs of abating in 2011), continued financial distress has serious implications for millions of families. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that based on the accepted affordability standard of paying no more than 30% of income on housing costs, Massachusetts and New Hampshire families must hold 2.9 and 2.7 minimum-wage jobs to afford the Fair Market Rent of a two-bedroom home.

No one can deny that there is a limit to the number of jobs one can work, so our task as an organization dedicated to promoting self-sufficiency must be to determine the most efficacious way in bringing households onto more secure financial footing. Ours is a challenging task, but hardly ours alone.

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