Center for American Progress Action

RELEASE: New Report Tracks Nation’s Progress Toward Cutting Poverty and Expanding Opportunity
Press Release

RELEASE: New Report Tracks Nation’s Progress Toward Cutting Poverty and Expanding Opportunity

Washington, D.C. — As we approach the 50th anniversary of the launch of the War on Poverty, the Half in Ten campaign today released a new report that provides key insights into how America is faring on jobs, health, economic inequality, and a number of other indicators that measure poverty and opportunity. The campaign also launched a new website that houses information from the report, state-by-state data, and resources to take action for low-income families.

“Our nation’s founding vision teaches us that We the People are called to work together to establish justice for all. As this report shows, there is an urgent need to strengthen our commitment to economic justice so that everyone can live in dignity,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and author of the report’s foreword. “Alleviating poverty and addressing inequality will make us a healthier, stronger nation. We can make that happen.”

The third annual indicators report tracks the nation’s and each state’s progress toward cutting poverty in half over the next decade and expanding opportunity for all. The report paints a sobering picture of the state of poverty and opportunity in the United States and makes the case that we need to reflect on the lessons of the five decades since the launch of the War on Poverty and renew our commitment to cutting poverty. According to the report, the percentage of people in poverty—with annual incomes below $18,284 for a family of three—remained stagnate between 2011 and 2012 at 15 percent. Similarly, median household income and the gender wage gap remained unchanged in 2012. Twenty-five states have poverty rates of at least 16 percent, which is above the national average and up from 2010 when only 16 states were in this category.

The report, “Resetting the Poverty Debate: Renewing Our Commitment to Shared Prosperity,” also outlines a pathway forward, recommending a set of policy priorities that would bring more families into the middle class and move the poverty indicators in the right direction.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The myopic focus on deficit reduction has led to consequences for economically vulnerable families. Because of the sequester, approximately 57,000 fewer children will be enrolled in Head Start this fall, 46 state and local housing agencies will be forced to drop 140,000 families from housing assistance in 2014, and $10 million will be cut from meals programs for seniors, which will affect local communities such as New Haven, where 5,500 fewer meals will be served to seniors next year.
  • Even as the economy grew, income inequality remained high. The 40 percent of households with the lowest incomes received only 11.5 percent of overall income in 2012. The top 5 percent of income earners is the only group to see an increase in income since the end of the recession and the group’s income has returned to their 2007 prerecession levels.
  • Stagnant service incomes underscore the need for an improved minimum wage. Poorly compensated workers have seen the largest declines in their wages over the last decade. For workers in the bottom 30 percent, real wages were nearly 6 percent lower in 2012 than in 2002. Raising the minimum wage would help narrow the wage and productivity disconnect and boost the incomes of poorly compensated workers.
  • Benefits and work supports are important for working families. Social Security benefits, for example, lifted the incomes of 25.6 million Americans above the supplemental poverty line, including 1.6 million children. In recent years, we have seen the food-insecurity rate stabilize despite high poverty and unemployment rates because of an increase in funding for the vital Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP—formerly called food stamps.

Related resources:

  • Download a summary of the national findings here.
  • Disability Poverty & Opportunity Profile
  • Access personal stories from advocates, service providers, and policymakers, which tell the story behind the data here.
  • Get quotes on the report from Half in Ten’s partners here.

To speak with experts on this issue, please contact Madeline Meth at mmeth@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6277.

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Half in Ten was launched in 2008 to urge local, state, and national leaders to set a national goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years and to build the political and public will to advance legislation and programs that will help us to reach it. More information can be found at www.halfinten.org.