Poverty in the United States

Poverty does not just affect "those people over there" across the world. Severe poverty exists in the United States as well. One in four children are at risk of hunger, and, among African-Americans and Latinos, one in three children is at risk of hunger. (Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 PDF Icon. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2009 {Table 1B, Table 6}.) The number of people in the US who live in poverty is increasing to record levels as the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.

  1. 1

    The official US poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, an increase from the year before. There were 43.6 million people in poverty; 50.7 million had no health insurance. (Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009, US Bureau of the Census)

  2. 2

    Most Americans (51.4 percent) will live in poverty at some point before the age of 65. (Urban Institute, Transitioning In and Out of Poverty, 2007) Of Americans over 65 years of age who live alone, 15.6 percent exist below the poverty line. (Global Action on Aging)

  3. 3

    Eighty-four percent of low-income families have at least one working family member, and 75 percent of single mothers who lead households are employed outside the home. (US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2007)

  4. 4

    An increase in homelessness in the first decade of the 21st century was accompanied by a decrease in real income and a sharp increase in housing foreclosures. (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2011) In 2009, the home foreclosure rate was 10,420 per day.

  5. 5

    About half of all American children will receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at some point before age 20. ("Estimating the Risk of Food Stamp Use and Impoverishment During Childhood," Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 163, No. 11, November 2009.) More than 90 percent of the benefits received through the SNAP are used by the third week of the month. (Analysis of Food Stamp Benefit Redemption Patterns, Fig. 4. US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, June 2006)

  6. 6

    The percentage of SNAP households with no income increased from seven percent in 1989 to 18 percent in 2009. (US Department of Agriculture)

  7. 7

    Low-income households spend a greater share of their income on food. Food accounts for 17.1 percent of spending for households making less than $10,000 per year compared to the US average of 12.6 percent. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2006)

  8. 8

    Voluntary food pantries, many church-related, have become part of the "safety-net" for the poor in the US, with more than 37 million people in 2010 being fed through them. (Feeding America 2010 Report)

  9. 9

    The highest percentages of poverty, above 16 percent, in 2010 were concentrated in a band of states extending from Arizona to West Virginia (US Bureau of the Census, 2010)

  10. 10

    Foreign-born women are more likely than foreign-born men to live in poverty; 18.3 percent compared to 15.2 percent; 16.8 percent of all foreign-born people live in poverty. (Migration Information Source)