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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Scioto Poverty Rate 24.4% and 20% American Children in Poverty


 "Twenty percent of American children (14.7 million) live in poverty, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau, which considers a family of four living on less than $23,624 to be poor. The United States actually has the second-highest rate of child poverty in the rich world, according to a 2013 report from UNICEF. Only Romania fares worse." 


America -- where the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep sliding downhill. Almost certainly, the most shocking part of the ugly reality of present-day poverty in the United States is the effect on our children.

We understand that kids who grow up in a financially secure situation find it easier to succeed in life. After all, this is common sense. They are more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to graduate from college, and, thus attain critical educational tools that foster accomplishment and advancement.  

Yet, how many of us consider the typical stress response of children who live in poverty?  

"The brain actually reacts in its biochemistry. For example, there can be fewer functional synaptic connections. You might have lots of synaptic connections, but they're not as tense as they ought to be. You have lower level of brain mass in certain areas of the brain as a result. That's the brain chemistry side. There is some data to suggest that, in addition, the impact on the metabolic system and how it develops in young children continues into adolescence and adulthood. That's where the tendency towards obesity, diabetes and heart disease -- start to get made."

(John D. Sutter. "Silent Crisis: 1 in 5 American Kids Is Poor." http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/23/opinion/sutter-child-poverty-casey-foundation/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7  
CNN. September 23, 2014)


The incredibly high level of child poverty in certain U.S. cities is shocking. Detroit has 59% of their children in poverty. Cleveland 54%, Fresno 48%, Memphis 46%, and Miami 44%.

According to McCarthy, here is another very disturbing fact to consider: children who live in neighborhoods where lots of other kids are poor -- even if they live in a family that is above the poverty line -- actually suffer some of the long-range effects, as if they themselves were in poverty. The problems that are associated with concentrated poverty go beyond those families that are poor.

McCarthy reports ...

"If you live in a high-poverty neighborhood, the odds that you will fall down the income ladder as an adult -- that you will be worse off than your parents -- are 52%, on average, even if you're not a child growing up in a poor family yourself."

In the United States of America, we basically tend to blame poverty on the poor. We think we understand the problem: the reason people are poor is because of "poor" character, "poor" upbringing, and "poor" choices. The country has long placed a strong value on self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The American character holds the ideal of  "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" as paramount.

So, does that mean the government should do nothing to help the poor increase their motivation and become independent? Studies have shown that low income families supplemented by even a few thousand dollars a year ($3,000-$4,000) have children who do better than those from families who have all the other characteristics being the same, except they don't have that extra $3,000 or $4,000 per year.

  “F. Scott Fitzgerald had said, ‘The rich are different from us.’ 
Ernest Hemingway had replied, ‘Yes, they have more money.’”

We complain about people being on welfare, and we tend to lump them all in the category. We hold a stereotypical view of welfare recipients as lazy bums unwilling to contribute to society, draining our resources, and living off the hard work of others. How easy it is to forget some of those with entirely different motivations.

Thanks to a very enlightening article (Access the entire piece by clicking here: http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-4-types-people-welfare-nobody-talks-about/), let's look at some ...

* People in a Temporary Emergency

Nineteen percent of people on AFDC (one of the most common forms of government aid) are on it for less than seven months. People do get laid off, lose their jobs due to company closures and cutbacks, and suffer injuries or illnesses that prevent them from working their jobs for companies that don't pay sick time.

* People Trapped In and By the System 

91% of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households — not to able-bodied, working-age Americans who choose not to work. Contrary to "Entitlement Society" rhetoric, over nine-tenths of these benefits go to those poor people with whom we have great empathy -- the elderly, the disabled, and those in working households.

76% of SNAP (Food Stamp) households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits

 (Arloc Sherman, Robert Greenstein, and Kathy Ruffing. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. February 10, 2012)

If these people are unemployed, they need a car and a working phone to get a job, but they need a job to afford a car and a working phone. Catch 22? And if they are employed, it's actually worse -- many are forced to sacrifice their paying jobs in favor of college classes or internships that don't pay anything. Add kids into the mix, and they can't get ahead because all of their time, money, and energy are being poured into just maintaining the life they're currently living.

It is well to consider the following ...
  • 2/3 of people living in poverty work an average of 1.7 jobs
  • 1 in 4 earns poverty level wages (less than $8.84 an hour)
  • 27% of working families have incomes below 200% of the poverty level
(Donna M. Beegle. See Poverty ... Be the Difference." 2007)

Here is just one example of a low-paying job: About 40% of home aides rely on public assistance, such as Medicaid and food stamps, just to get by.

* People Who Have Been Trained To See Welfare As Normal

Some people grow up in welfare life as do their every friend and relative. It is something normal to be poor. To them, the middle class is a status that's virtually unattainable. They see those poor who do attain it as lucky. It's like winning the lottery. They come to believe successful people probably had everything in life handed to them. Those poor individuals with high goals are treated by their peers as folks who are "too good" for the people with which they grew up.

We can face that fact or we can curse it, but living one dollar above the poverty line without assistance is walking a tightrope without a safety net.
 
"No, really. If you've had a source of income, no matter how small, for your entire life, and suddenly someone took that income away, it's a financial disaster. So when you start to earn more money through your actual job, there's this weird tipping point where you make just enough to stay on assistance, but not enough to be free from it ... so you're earning your normal pay plus welfare. At that moment, you're pulling ahead of the whole poverty trap. BUT ... once you cross that line, even by one dollar, that public aid is stripped and you take a huge step backward."

* And, of Course -- Kids

Welfare moms are public enemy #1 for many taxpaying Americans. 

How many million times have you heard people say this about children in the welfare state, "I'm the one who ends up having to pay for them!" Or how about this statement? "Welfare people reproduce so they can get more government money."

The truth? The average family on welfare has 2.8 children. Furthermore, only one out of every 10 mothers on welfare has more than 3 children. 

(Nichole Jaworski. "Poverty In America: Myths About 
Welfare Recipients. CBS News. July 2, 2013)

In 2005, the average welfare check for one parent with two children was $478 a month. Did you know that 20 years ago, it was $408?  And, having more children does not necessarily mean receiving more aid. The average welfare increase is around $60 per month for a baby. There are some states where you don’t qualify for any additional aid after the second child is born. Other states only allow slight increases (like $25) for a new child.

(Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith. "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012.") 

In Ohio, cash assistance works like this: a family of 4 can have a take home income of $861 a month and still qualify for cash assistance. The maximum monthly amount for a family of four is $507.


The Bottom Line

The American social safety net is extremely weak and filled with gaping holes.

*  The wage of the median-paying job barely grew—by one measure going up only about 7 percent over the 38 years from 1973 to 2011. Half the jobs in the country now pay less than $33,000 a year, and a quarter pay less than the poverty line of $22,000 for a family of four.

* Households with only one wage-earner—typically those headed by single mothers—have found it extremely difficult to support a family. The share of families with children headed by single mothers rose from 12.8 percent in 1970 to 26.2 percent in 2010 (and from 37.1 percent in 1971 to 52.8 percent in 2010 among African Americans). In 2010, 46.9 percent of children under 18 living in households headed by a single mother were poor.

* The percentage of people in deep poverty has doubled since 1976. A major reason for this rise is the near death of cash assistance for families with children. Welfare has shrunk from 14 million recipients before the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families law (TANF) was enacted in 1996 to 4.2 million today, just 1.5 percent of the population.

* Twenty-six states have less than 20 percent of their poor children on TANF. The proportion of poor families with children receiving welfare has shrunk from 68 percent before TANF was enacted to 27 percent today.

We need so many more jobs that yield a living income. If this involves a higher minimum wage and more effective unions, then so be it.
The stereotypical view of welfare recipients presents them as lazy minorities unwilling to contribute to society, a drain on resources, and undeserving of living off the hard work of others. - See more at: http://www.usaonrace.com/eyes-on-the-enterprise/2476/a-lack-of-work-challenges-the-stereotypes-of-welfare#sthash.knliB995.dpuf

It is unfortunate in many states, TANF and food stamps combined don’t even get people to half of the poverty line, and a substantial majority of poor families don’t receive TANF at all. We should always remember children in our weak moments when we criticize all welfare recipients.

We here in Scioto County live in Appalachia, where concentrated poverty is extremely high. The poverty rate is 24.4 percent, and the poor population is 18,245 people.

(Click on this interactive map of the United States "Mapping Poverty in America" dated January 4, 2014 from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2014/01/05/poverty-map/?ref=multimedia )

Such places are home to a hugely disproportionate share of the inter-generational poor and persistent poverty. For many decades, our county has largely been neglected in terms of generating new businesses that provide decent wages, providing adequate health care for adults and children, and assuring poor children receive monies for extended education. We must demand better conditions.

What kind of country have we become when 20% of our own children live in poverty? Excuse my French, but that is fucking unbearable. 20%?! I, for one, get very tired of well-to-do people having no compassion for the poor and no commitment to helping those strangers less fortunate. I understand general frustration for a system that spends money on assistance, but people must look at the facts about welfare and not blow ignorant hatred out of their uninformed, uppity asses!

"The welfare state is not really about the welfare of the masses. 
It is about the egos of the elites."

--Thomas Sowell, economist





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