Disturbing news from the U.S. Census Bureau, which has just released a report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2011. According to the report, 27.6 percent of black Americans, or 10.9 million, live in poverty, where poverty is defined as a family of four earning less than $22,811. That’s up by .2 percent, or 183,000 from the previous year.
The median income for black households also dropped by 2.7 percent to $32,229 in 2011. Of course, this all ties in to the news we reported the other day about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s finding that 25.1 percent of black households in this country were food insecure in 2011.
With all of the talk about unemployment, jobs and the middle class, the reality of poverty tends to get ignored. Speaking to The Root, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, authors of the new book The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, said, “Poor people have not in any way been a priority in the Obama administration … and of course we know poverty would be very low on the totem pole in a Romney administration.” They’re currently spreading the message about this issue on the “Poverty Tour 2.0: A Call to Conscience,” which will be stopping in Ohio, Chicago, Florida and Pennsylvania through the 15th.
A senior White House official told the site that poverty rates usually go up and incomes go down in the couple of years following a recession. “Everything suggests that what we’ll be looking at is historical data and that if you go up to 2012, all of the economic indicators suggest we are now starting to dig out in incomes, and they’re starting to rise.”
Still, the amount of attention being paid to middle class survival is warranted. Research over recent months from the Pew Research Center shows that 85 percent of the middle class say it’s harder for them to maintain their lifestyle. And 84 percent of those in the lower class say they have to make cuts to the household budget.
For black Americans, the number of people living in poverty was already above the 10 million mark last year. The concern over the fate of the black middle class is very high and very real. The tenuous hold that middle class blacks have on their socioeconomic status is threatened by the pressures of bad mortgages and the lack of jobs.
According to the Center for American Progress, this “is the second time on record that our economy grew, yet low and middle-income families did not share in the gains.” However, if there is some good news to be taken from the report, it’s that tens of millions of more people would be in poverty if not for programs that fall inside “the social safety net” like unemployment insurance. Earned income tax credits and food stamps have also been a godsend to those in need.
Overall, the Census found that 15.7 percent of Americans, or46.2 million, are living in poverty, statistically flat when compared with last year. Median income dropped 1.5 percent to $50,054. And the number of people without health insurance fell .6 percent (about 1.34 million people) in 2011. The number of uninsured is still about 48.6 million.
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