Local Momentum For National Change On Poverty

While there are some bright spots in this year’s poverty data, it's a strong reminder that our economy still isn't working for low-income Americans.

Virgil Pack is a father of two from Richmond, Virginia, who works 3 low wage jobs for 65 hours a week with no benefits. He has completed two years of college and used to run his own business, he says, “but in this economy this is all the work I can find. Every month is a struggle to make ends meet.”

Virgil shared his story during the release event at CAP Action for this year’s Half in Ten annual report, Building Local Momentum for National Change: The 2014 Half in Ten Poverty and Inequality Indicators Report. The report examines 21 different indicators of economic security and opportunity to track the goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years. In states and municipalities across the country, movements to raise the minimum wage, provide paid sick leave and universal pre-K, and other progressive policies have gained steam. But there is much more that needs to be done for people out there like Virgil and his family. Here are some of the key findings:

There was some progress on the poverty rate this year but chronic economic insecurity persists. The national poverty rate fell from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013—the first statistically significant decrease since 2006—but many low-income Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet in today’s economy. Income inequality is at the same level as the 1920’s, service sector wages have been flat for over a decade, and the minimum wage hasn’t kept track with the rising costs of living.



Progress and momentum at the local and state level shows that public will is building in the right direction. In the recent election, voters in blue states and red states strongly supported progressive policies that would boost the economic security of American families. In fact, in five out of five states where a minimum wage increase was on the ballot, voters supported the increase by an average of 26 points.

Especially as the groundwork for the 2016 begins, we must leverage local and state progressive movements and successes to build a truly national anti-poverty movement. With income inequality at levels not seen since the 1920s, a shrinking middle class, stagnant wages, and too little progress on poverty, we must set the stage to make poverty reduction a serious and accountable priority.

BOTTOM LINE: While there are some bright spots in this year’s poverty data, it’s a strong reminder that our economy still isn’t working for low-income Americans. Promising developments at the local level are a step in the right direction, and it’s time for policymakers at the federal level to make the right choices to support families and cut poverty. Hardworking men and women like Virgil shouldn’t have to work full time or overtime and still worry about providing basic necessities for their families.

See Also: VIDEO: Building Local Momentum for National Change: The 2014 Half in Ten Poverty and Inequality Indicators Report

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