Poverty in America (American Experience)


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Henry George: From Poverty to Politics
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Regardless of marital status, family caretaking responsibilities more often fall to women: when a child or relative is sick, women are more likely to sacrifice work and income to take care of that person. Working women necessarily take time off for pregnancy and birth. For women in non-traditional jobs, employers sometimes fail to modify job duties or force them into inappropriate light duty positions against their request; these types of behaviors may constitute pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title IX.

Victims of violence are forced to leave jobs for safety and take time off work to seek appropriate medical care and legal assistance. In addition to physical and emotional injury, sexual and domestic violence leaves victims economically vulnerable as well. Skip to main content. Issues Ever since the United States started measuring poverty, women have been more likely to be poor than men. Use our interactive map to take a closer look at poverty statistics in the United States.

People working at minimum wage, even holding down multiple jobs. Seniors living on fixed incomes.

Wage earners suddenly out of work. Millions of families everywhere from our cities to rural communities. Poverty does not strike all demographics equally. For example, in , Along the same lines, the poverty rate for married couples in was only 4. In , the poverty rate for people living with a disability was In , the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 2.

Though the official census data gives seniors a poverty rate of only 9. Whites had a poverty rate of Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and the ages of its members. See Figure 3. Families live in poverty for a number of reasons, many of which relate to work.

The Population of Poverty USA

Adults in poor households often are unable to work because of infirmity, age, or family responsibilities; their skill sets and educational backgrounds do not match available jobs; they choose not to work; or they fail to earn enough money to get above the poverty threshold. See Figure 4. Nearly a third of poor, working-age Philadelphians who were out of the workforce in described themselves as disabled; an additional 14 percent said they were living with a disabled person.

More than a fifth were in school—14 percent in college or graduate school and 7 percent in high school. Seven percent were women with children under the age of 6. About 30 percent of the working-age poor in Philadelphia held jobs in , according to the census, but earned wages that were insufficient to get them out of poverty. They were most often employed as cashiers, personal care aides, child care workers, and shipping and receiving laborers.

Other common occupations included cooks, maids and janitors, drivers, customer service representatives, and medical assistants. Of poor adults who were working, 21 percent were employed all year in full-time jobs, while another 20 percent worked part time. Most, however, were employed for shorter periods; 25 percent worked for three months or less. Twelve percent of working-age Philadelphians reported that they were unemployed. In addition to earning low wages, the working poor often contend with unstable and unpredictable schedules, especially those in the service sector and other types of shift work.

Focus group findings suggest that census employment statistics may not represent the full percentage of poor who work. Many participants said they often perform one or more jobs under the table, in occupations such as construction, food service, and child care, which do not necessarily show up in the labor force participation figures. They also described doing odd jobs, earning money by taking advantage of their talents and skills.

Typically, these jobs do not require references or education credentials, which some poor lack, or background checks, which some may not want to undergo. According to a Urban Institute report, individuals living in poverty sometimes shun formal employment, fearing that reported income would force them to pay debts, make child support payments, or fulfill other financial or legal responsibilities.

Personal networks are an important source of shelter, child care, and financial assistance, as well as information on work, government assistance programs, and private charity. Leah, a mother of two living in a homeless shelter, said that her local relatives make it possible for her to manage. Another young mother, Jessica, said that she would not be able to work if her mother could not mind her children, since she cannot afford day care.

Poverty Estimates, Trends, and Analysis

Sometimes, families in poverty move in with other families. And in public housing, doubling up can lead to eviction. Leaning on friends and family helps those in poverty survive from day to day, yet as Andrew Frishkoff, executive director of Philadelphia LISC, a community development organization, said, coping and getting by are very important but are not the same as getting yourself out of those circumstances. With limited incomes, those in poverty struggle to find affordable, habitable places to live, particularly places where they can establish a residency that lasts for years rather than months.

Without a stable address, it can be difficult to secure a job and enroll children in school. Financial experts say that households should spend no more than 30 percent of income on housing costs, including utilities.

In addition to being cost-burdened, some poor families live in housing that is physically deficient and sometimes hazardous. Deficiencies such as poor insulation or damage to the building exterior can lead to extensive energy loss as well as pest infestation. According to the American Housing Survey, 17 percent of poor households in Philadelphia were living in moderately or severely inadequate housing, compared with 8 percent of those above the poverty line.

In the survey, poor tenants reported less satisfaction with building maintenance and were more frequently responsible for maintaining the property themselves, compared with tenants above the poverty line. Based on data from the department, an estimated 28 percent of rental units in high-poverty neighborhoods were unlicensed in , a larger share than in nonpoor areas.

In the Pew poll, 39 percent of individuals who said they grew up poor reported that they had moved a lot when they were young; only 14 percent of those who said they were not poor as children had moved often. Among respondents who grew up poor, more than a quarter said they had been evicted or homeless at some point during childhood, compared with 6 percent of those who did not grow up poor. An estimated 8 percent of all Philadelphia renters faced eviction in ; the rate in poverty areas was 9 percent. Evictions linked to short-term or verbal leases were nearly twice as prevalent in areas where the poverty rate was 20 percent or more than in those where it was below 20 percent.

Phil Lord, executive director of TURN, a tenant advocacy group in the city, said that verbal leases, which are often offered by landlords who have not obtained rental licenses, can create housing instability for tenants. Although tenants with any lease agreement, verbal or written, are entitled to a court hearing when faced with eviction, many of those without written leases do not know that, Lord said.

According to Housing and Urban Development figures, more than 5, people in Philadelphia were homeless during the annual one-day count in January For Philadelphians living in poverty, exposure to crime is a major concern. And that concern can be seen in the attitudes of the poor and the data showing the incidence of crime in their neighborhoods. In the Pew poll, all residents were asked to list the most important problems facing Philadelphia, and crime came out on top.

But respondents who qualified as poor based on income and family size were more concerned about it than the nonpoor.

See Table 2. That level of concern came up in another question, in which respondents were asked whether they felt safe being outside in their neighborhoods at night. On this measure, only 48 percent of the poor said they felt safe, compared with 64 percent of the nonpoor.

The Gilded Age

In tracts where the poverty rate was below 20 percent, there were 14 violent crimes per 1, residents. See Figure 7. Both direct and indirect exposure to crime are associated with higher levels of stress, psychological trauma, poor academic performance, and reduced economic mobility. And prison data suggest that a higher percentage of residents of poor neighborhoods were convicted of crimes than were residents of other neighborhoods. In , for every 1, adults living in areas where the poverty rate was 20 percent or higher, four were admitted into Pennsylvania state prisons. See Figure 8.

In the same year, 4, individuals were released from Pennsylvania state prisons to Philadelphia addresses. Ninety-one percent of those addresses were in poverty areas. Residents of poor neighborhoods also experience heightened police activity. In , law enforcement officers made an average of pedestrian and vehicle stops for every 1, residents living in areas where the poverty rate was between 20 and 39 percent, and stops in areas where the rate was 40 percent or higher.

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Poverty in the United States - Wikipedia

And they made just stops per 1, residents living in neighborhoods where the poverty rate was below 20 percent. In the Pew poll, a smaller share of poor residents 59 percent indicated that they had a great deal or good amount of respect for the police in Philadelphia, compared with residents who were not poor 78 percent. See Figure A similar pattern emerged when respondents were asked how much confidence they had that police officers in their communities would treat blacks and whites equally. Forty-eight percent of the poor said they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence, while 65 percent of the nonpoor said so.

Public officials and social scientists have said that a quality education is one element in the path out of poverty. Among the poor residents who participated in the Pew poll, 69 percent said public schools were doing a poor or fair job educating students, an opinion shared by 75 percent of the nonpoor. Sixty-one percent of poor students who entered Philadelphia district-run high schools in the school year went on to graduate in ; the rate for nonpoor students was 70 percent.


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And at Philadelphians living in poverty enrolled their children more frequently in district-run public schools—as opposed to public charter or private schools, including those affiliated with religious organizations—than did nonpoor residents. In the school year, poor students were more likely than the nonpoor to attend public schools—both district-run and charter—with low achievement scores.

Philadelphia is home to nearly , people living below the poverty line. Poll results and focus group conversations reveal that the poor share many of the same concerns as other residents in the city—including crime, education, and jobs—but they face unique obstacles.

Poverty in America (American Experience) Poverty in America (American Experience)
Poverty in America (American Experience) Poverty in America (American Experience)
Poverty in America (American Experience) Poverty in America (American Experience)
Poverty in America (American Experience) Poverty in America (American Experience)
Poverty in America (American Experience) Poverty in America (American Experience)
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