Category: Poverty

Resource Category Topic Type
More Poor Kids in More Poor Places: Children Increasingly Live Where Poverty Persists
The authors of this brief examine child poverty rates using decennial census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000, as well as American Community Survey five-year estimates between 2005 and 2009, to identify those counties where child poverty has persisted. They find persistent child poverty in nearly twice as many U.S. counties as those that report high persistent poverty across all age groups. In all, 342 counties have experienced persistently high levels of poverty across all age groups during the past twenty-nine years. In contrast, more than 700 counties experienced persistent child poverty over the same period. Rural areas are disproportionately likely to have persistent high child poverty; 81 percent of counties with persistent child poverty are nonmetropolitan while only 65 percent of all U.S. counties are nonmetropolitan. Overall, 26 percent of rural children reside in counties whose poverty rates have been persistently high. This compares with 12 percent of urban children. Counties with persistent child poverty cluster in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, other areas of the Southeast, parts of the Southwest, and in the Great Plains. The authors comment that the overwhelming urban focus of welfare programs means policymakers often overlook needy families in rural areas. In addition to the high unemployment and low education levels that they document in the brief, the physical and social isolation associated with rural poverty create problems different from those in densely settled urban areas. They conclude that the reductions in government spending likely to result from the Great Recession, coupled with two decades of the devolution of policymaking responsibility from the federal to the state level (and occasionally to municipal governments), may have significant implications for children and fragile families in these persistently poor rural counties.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty, Rural, Safety Net, Urban Publication
More Than One in Ten American Households Relies on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the most responsive federal programs to economic downturns, as evidence by the increases in SNAP use between 2007 and 2009. Nationally, more than one in ten households relies on SNAP benefits, and the rate is even higher in rural areas, with more than 13 percent of households reporting use. This brief examines the trends in SNAP use across the United States since the recession began in 2007 and considers the impact of legislation in the Congress on those who rely on SNAP to make ends meet.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Food Assistance, Poverty, Rural, Safety Net Publication
Official Poverty Statistics Mask the Economic Vulnerability of Seniors
In this brief, we compare Maine, one of the oldest states in the nation, to the United States as a whole. Historically, both children and the elderly were regarded as vulnerable groups in need of support from government programs. Traditional poverty estimates suggest that at least since the late 1960s, senior poverty has been on the decline, whereas poverty among children has increased. Declines among seniors are largely attributable to the advent of programs such as Social Security. Similar to the nation, about half of Maine seniors (51.0 percent) would be poor without Social Security benefits. However, traditional poverty measurement masks the role rising medical costs play in pushing seniors into poverty. The newer Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which accounts for these costs, reveals that more than one in ten Maine seniors over age 55 were living below the poverty line in 2009–2013. This is 2.3 percentage points higher than official estimates suggest. Without medical expenses, the SPM indicates that poverty among Maine seniors would be roughly cut in half, from 10.2 percent to 5.2 percent. A similar reduction is evident across the United States (from 14.2 percent to 9.0 percent), though this represents a smaller relative reduction in poverty (by just over one-third).
Vulnerable Families Research Program Health, Poverty, Seniors Publication
One Million Additional Children in Poverty Since 2009: 2010 Data Reveal Nearly One in Four Southern Children Now Live in Poverty
American Community Survey (ACS) data released on September 22, 2011 allow for a detailed look at child poverty by state and place, adding to the understanding of the economic landscape described by the Current Population Survey (CPS) data released last week. While the CPS data are useful for providing a snapshot of poverty across the nation, the larger sample size of the ACS--three million addresses versus 100,000 addresses in the CPS--makes it better suited for nuanced analyses of poverty. In this brief, the authors use the ACS data released on September 22 to focus on child poverty. The authors report that between 2009 and 2010 an additional one million children joined the ranks of those in poverty. This brings the total to an estimated 15.7 million poor children in 2010, an increase of 2.6 million since the Great Recession began in 2007. Of the 15.7 million poor children in 2010, 5.9 million are young (under age 6), an increase of 220,000 over one year. Across the United States, rural, suburban, and central city areas all realized significant increases in child poverty between 2009 and 2010 and since the recent recession began in 2007. Congressional concerns over the federal debt have already resulted in an agreement that will force significant cuts to domestic spending, including many programs that serve children and families. The authors stress that, although budget cuts are unavoidable, policy makers should carefully consider how cuts are distributed, keeping America's most vulnerable families in mind as the effects of the recession reverberate, as demonstrated by high child poverty rates.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty, Safety Net Publication
Over 3 Million Low-Income Children in Rural Areas Face Cut in Child Tax Credit if Recovery Act Improvement Expires
According to this new research, at the end of 2010, the Child Tax Credit improvements that were included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will expire if Congress does not extend them. If this happens, low-income working families across America will be affected.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty, Rural, Safety Net, Tax Publication
Over Sixteen Million Children in Poverty in 2011
UPDATE: This brief has been updated to include revised versions of Figure 1 (page 2) and Appendix 1 (page 6). The original version of this brief overestimated the statistical significance of some state-level changes in child poverty between 2010 and 2011, and has been revised accordingly.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty Publication
Overall Declines in Child Poverty Mask Relatively Stable Rates Across States
Earlier this week, the U.S. Census Bureau published its official poverty estimates noting a decline in poverty across the population.1 In this brief, we use additional Census data released today from the American Community Survey (ACS), the only regular source for estimating yearly child poverty rates at, and below, the state level. We examine child poverty rates across the United States by place type, region, and state (see Box 1). Child poverty decreased across the United States from 21.7 percent in 2014 to 20.7 percent in 2015 (see Table 1). Nationwide child poverty rates are still higher, however, than they were in 2009, at the end of the Great Recession. Child poverty has declined to 2009 levels in rural areas only, and remains above pre-recession levels in all place types (analyses not shown). Child poverty declined across all place types over the past year, as shown in Table 1. It remains lowest in suburbs and highest in cities, though rural areas are not far behind. Regionally, child poverty rates were highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast; yet, Northeastern cities have higher child poverty than cities in any other region. Child poverty fell in thirteen states and only rose in Mississippi—the only state with a child poverty rate over 30 percent. New Hampshire child poverty remains among the lowest nationwide at 10.7 percent, a significant decline from last year. See Figure 1. While these child poverty declines are promising and corroborated by results from the official poverty statistics published earlier this week, it is important to keep in mind that most states experienced no change between 2014 and 2015. Lower child poverty rates appear to be driven by higher median incomes over the past year.2
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty Publication
Recent Data Show Continued Growth in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Use
This brief uses data from the American Community Survey to examine rates of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) receipt in 2011, with particular attention to changes since the onset of the recession, and to receipt by family composition, region, and place type (rural, suburban, and central city locations).
Vulnerable Families Research Program Family, Food Assistance, Poverty, Safety Net Publication
Regional Young Child Poverty in 2008: Rural Midwest Sees Increased Poverty, While Urban Northeast Rates Decrease
In 2008, America's recession affected poverty rates for children under age 6 unevenly, with rates in the rural Midwest rising significantly, while rates in northeastern central cities fell slightly. And in the rural South, where more than 30 percent of young children are poor, poverty rates for young children persisted at a very high rate. This is an analysis of American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty, Rural, Urban Publication
Rural and Central City Residents with Multiple Children Likely to Be Hardest Hit by Proposed WIC Cuts
This brief uses data from the 2007 and 2010 Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement to describe the distribution of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) receipt across the population and to detail place-based differences in receipt. WIC is a nutrition program that serves pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 (who meet certain criteria) by providing them with nutrition education and checks or vouchers for food purchases. The proposed fiscal year 2012 funding is $733 million less for WIC than fiscal year 2011 levels, and far less than what is needed to serve all who are eligible. This brief describes the implications of the cuts to the WIC budget to help policymakers and service providers to better understand the population likely affected by cuts to WIC funding.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty, Rural, Safety Net, Urban Publication
Rural Children Increasingly Rely on Medicaid and State Child Health Insurance Programs for Medical Care
Despite a flurry of reports on health insurance coverage for children, virtually none of them have examined the unique situation of rural families where one-fifth of all the nation's poor children live. This brief takes an in-depth look at the health insurance programs, such as SCHIP and Medicaid, which rural children rely on for medical care.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Health, Health Insurance, Poverty, Rural, Safety Net Publication
SNAP Use Increased Slightly in 2012
This brief uses data from the American Community Survey to examine rates of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) receipt in 2012, track changes since the onset of the recession, and monitor receipt by region and place type.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Family, Food Assistance, Health, Poverty, Safety Net Publication
Social Service Delivery in Two Rural Counties
When low-income residents struggle to make ends meet, non-profit social service agencies can help fill the gaps. In doing so, these agencies must find sufficient funding, retain qualified staff, and craft efficient service delivery mechanisms that are respectful of clients and communities. Some of the challenges that service providers encounter are exacerbated by rural characteristics, such as vast geographic distances and the lack of economies of scale. Yet in some ways rurality is beneficial, as small communities can facilitate community engagement and providers can engage natural supports in their service delivery work.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Low Income, Poverty, Safety Net Publication
Southeastern Kentuckians Remain Optimistic Through Great Recession: Growing Concerns about Sprawl, Housing, and Recreational Opportunities
In May and June of 2007, Carsey Institute researchers surveyed 1,000 randomly selected respondents from Kentucky’s Harlan and Letcher counties, and between November 2010 and January 2011, they returned to survey 1,020 different randomly selected respondents from the same counties. These two Kentucky counties provide a snapshot of perceptions of community and environmental change in a chronically poor rural place. This brief focuses on the questions asked in both surveys to identify area wide (Harlan and Letcher counties combined) changes since the Great Recession. The surveys reveal that the recession has exacerbated concern about many community-level problems including poverty, affordable housing, sprawl, and a lack of recreational opportunities. Southeastern Kentuckians’ views regarding how environmental resources should be used have also changed. As the demand for jobs has increased, Harlan and Letcher county residents are more likely to believe that natural resources should be used for economic development rather than conserved for the future. Optimism about the future is unchanged despite growing financial instability during the recession. Author Jessica Ulrich concludes that as local, state, and federal government program budgets are cut, and poverty and unemployment rates rise, southeastern Kentuckians will need to increasingly rely on the support of other community members. She adds, “If communities keep faith that they can work together to solve pressing problems and obtain the social, human, and economic resources that they desperately need, then perhaps Harlan and Letcher counties can begin to escape from the persistent poverty that has been plaguing them for decades.”
Vulnerable Families Research Program Community, Economic Development, Housing, Poverty, Public Opinion Publication
State EITC Programs Provide Important Relief to Families in Need
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the nation, offering tax credits to low- and moderate-earning families.1 The amount of EITC benefits varies by earnings and the number of dependent children in a family, with considerably more generous benefits going to families with children. In addition to the federal EITC, as of 2015, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia provided additional EITC dollars.2 Most state EITCs are generally structured such that they offer credits equal to a proportion of the federal EITC, varying from 3.5 percent in Louisiana to 40 percent in Washington, DC. This brief documents the estimated effects of state EITC benefits on rates of poverty in 2010–2014 using the Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC). First, we examine Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) rates and average EITC benefits across states with a fully refundable EITC between 2010 and 2014, and estimate how much higher poverty rates would have been in the absence of the state EITC. Next, we analyze how trends in poverty and state EITC benefits vary by race, marital status, metropolitan status, and region among these states. Finally, we project hypothetical differences in poverty rates for non-EITC states had they adopted EITCs of various generosities over this same time period.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Poverty, Safety Net, Tax Publication
TANF in Rural America: Informing Re-authorization
In 1996 welfare reform ushered in a new era in which cash assistance for poor parents became both temporary and conditional on activities to promote economic independence through work. Cash assistance from TANF relieves, but does not eliminate, poverty because benefit levels are far too low to lift families above the poverty threshold. These ameliorative effects are weaker in rural than urban areas. Over time, the positive impacts of TANF receipt have continued to decline. The authors assert that the necessity of re-authorizing TANF gives us an opportunity to reflect on its strengths and limitations. TANF is an important component of poor families' budgets. However, in its current form, it is insufficient; strengthening TANF would help alleviate some material hardship in the lives of America's neediest citizens. In order to adapt TANF to better support struggling families in a modern economy, the authors suggest that the TANF reauthorization keep America's rural poor in mind, acknowledge differences in ameliorative effects, re-establish the TANF Emergency Fund, reinvigorate the Contingency Fund, and reconsider TANF Supplemental Grants.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Family, Poverty, Rural, Safety Net Publication
The Unequal Distribution of Child Poverty: Highest Rates among Young Blacks and Children of Single Mothers in Rural America
Measuring by race, place, and family, this brief highlights poverty rates for two rural groups--young black children and children of single mothers--who each face rates around 50%.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Poverty, Rural Publication
Three in Ten Rural and Urban Medicaid Recipients Affected by Potential Work Requirements
The Affordable Care Act in 2010 gave states the option to expand Medicaid access to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Thus more able-bodied and working adults have become eligible for Medicaid. In addition, several states have petitioned the federal government to have the option to enforce work requirements for those receiving Medicaid in their state.1 Specific waiver requests vary by state, but could have broad implications for Medicaid recipients across the nation, and typically include a requirement of able-bodied, adult Medicaid recipients to complete a certain number of hours spent working, or in some kind of other approved activity, like job training or looking for work. Children under age 19, pregnant or recently postpartum women, people with disabilities, and sole caretakers of young children are typically excluded from these proposed work requirements.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Poverty, Rural, Safety Net, Urban Publication
Toward a More Equal Footing
Policy makers and advocates nationwide recognize that funding for early childhood education is a crucial investment in the future. Critical foundational development occurs before age 5, and research consistently shows that high-quality early education for children leads to higher future educational attainment and lower likelihood of crime,1 and yields a return on investment of 7 to 13 percent.2 Yet accessing affordable, quality early childhood education and care is a challenge for families nationwide. More than a quarter of families with young children are burdened by child care costs,3and the availability and quality of child care and education are highly variable across states.4 One program that connects the most economically vulnerable families with quality early childhood programming is Early Head Start (EHS). Subject to rigorous quality and staffing standards,5 implemented among the youngest children (prenatally through age 2), and delivered via a two-generation approach, EHS is a significant opportunity for providing quality care and education to a population that might otherwise struggle to access it. This brief explores the characteristics of EHS in Maine, compares them to the national landscape, and connects these findings to a discussion of the federal and state policy climates.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Education, Fertility, Poverty Publication
Understanding Very High Rates of Young Child Poverty in the South
It is widely known that the South is home to some of the places with the highest rates of child poverty. To address the many challenges poor families face there, policy makers and community leaders need to understand the complex factors that converge in this region of the United States. This brief presents an analysis of national and state-by-state data to help readers understand high child poverty in the South.
Vulnerable Families Research Program Children, Family, Poverty Publication