Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reporting America

According to data from the United States Census Bureau, over 17 million women lived in poverty in 2010, including more than 7.5 million in extreme poverty and 4.7 million single mothers in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years.T he data from the US Census Bureau also showed that more than 1 million children were added to the poverty population between 2009 and 2010, making the total number of children living below the poverty line exceed 15 million, the greatest since 2001. The number of homeless children has surged. In 2010, 1.6 million children in the United States were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, up 33 percent from that in 2007, the report said, quoting figures from the US National Center on Family Homelessness.

According to a Salvation Army report, a record 49.1 million Americans (16 percent) are living below the federal poverty line. A family of four earning less that $23,050 per year is considered living in poverty.

38 percent of Americans report receiving some form of charitable assistance, including food from food banks or financial assistance/housing support; 63 percent who earn less than $25,000 per year report receiving assistance; and among Americans ages 35 to 54, 46 percent report having received assistance at some point in their lifetimes.  Thirteen percent of Americans report having spent a night in a shelter or on the street due to loss of housing and 26 percent who earn less than $25,000 per year report sleeping in a shelter or on the street.

59 percent of Americans believing poverty is a trap that no matter how hard they try, those stricken by poverty cannot escape. 59 percent believe it is not possible to eliminate poverty altogether while 32 percent believe there is nothing much they can do to help poor people.

Meantime, for two years running Houston has added more millionaires to its population than any other city in the US. Near-millionaires are enjoying some nice upward mobility, especially those involved in the oil and gas industry.

Low-wage workers, on the other hand, aren’t faring too well in the city. In fact, a recent report from Houston Interfaith Worker Justice (HIWJ) estimates that low-wage workers lose $753.2 million annually due to wage theft. Wage theft can occur in many ways, including: workers being denied the minimum wage or overtime pay; stolen tips; illegal deductions from paychecks; people being forced to work off the clock; or workers getting misclassified as independent contractors so they aren’t entitled to overtime or benefits.

“We’re not talking about a worker here or a worker there...”
says José Eduardo Sanchez, campaign organizer with HIWJ. “It impacts families, communities, and local economies.”

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