New Poverty Stats: What They Mean and How Texas Compares Nationally

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After CPPP’s “Kids Count” report about Texas children was released a few weeks ago (covered here by Chloe), some new sobering statistics were released about the state of children around the nation.

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report detailing the number of people in the United States living in poverty and without health insurance. Here’s an overview:

  • The overall poverty rate in the U.S. rose from 14.3% in 2009, to 15.1% in 2010.
  • The total number of Americans living in poverty last year was 46.2 million.
  • Children (under 18) living in poverty in the U.S. rose from 20.7% in 2009, to 22% in 2010.
  • Children are more likely than any other age group to be poor.
  • Children under 6 have better than a 1 in 4 chance of being poor (25.3%). Compare this with the 12.9% poverty rate for the 18-64 age group, and 8.9% for 65 and over.
  • 7.3 million (or 9.8%) of children have no health insurance.
  • 15.4% of children living in poverty are uninsured.

Add to the weight of these statistics the fact that the poverty rate for a family of four is $22,314, hardly a lavish lifestyle. (Additional coverage of the latest census report can be found here and here.)

Another report was recently released by the Texas Food Bank Network and Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative that provides statistics about the number of Texas households facing hunger everyday:

  • 19% struggled to keep food on the table from 2008 to 2010 (up from 14.8% the previous two years).
  • 700,000 people in Harris County live in hunger.
  • There was a 21% gap between the funding Harris County residents received and what is required for an adequate diet, even with free school lunch and food stamp programs (SNAP).

One aspect of these statistics that caught my attention is the disconnect between governmental benefits provided for older Americans, while over a quarter of American children live in poverty. As the presidential race heats up, and candidates on both sides debate entitlement, the “political third-rail” of social security is often mentioned. Social security is so dangerous for politicians to discuss that they are vilified if they ever bring it up. However, our national discourse rarely mentions reforming our current system that leaves children as the worst off members of our society.

This issue will hopefully be brought to the forefront of the national debate. Governor Rick Perry will likely be asked some tough questions as he touts the job growth Texas has experienced over his 10 years in office. Poverty in Texas stands at 18.4%.

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