Sunday, March 23, 2014

The poor die young

There are several US states in which more than 20% of the population cannot always afford to feed themselves.

According to a new Gallup poll:
For the sixth consecutive year, Mississippians were the most likely in the U.S. to report struggling to afford food. In 2013, 25.1% report there was at least one time in the last 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy the food they or their families needed. Following Mississippi among the 10 states which are worst off:
2) West Virginia (23.0%), 3) Louisiana (23.0%), 4) Alabama (22.9%), 5) Arkansas (22.9%), 6) North Carolina (22.2%), 7) Kentucky (21.8%), 8) Georgia (21.5%), 9) Oklahoma (21.2%), and 10) Arizona (21.1%)

Alabama has been among the 10 states most likely to report struggling to afford food in each of the six years Gallup have tracked this measure. Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia are also frequent visitors on this list. Each has appeared five times since tracking began. Other repeat states among the 10 most likely to report struggling to afford food are West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Oklahoma — each making the list four of the last six years. This is the first time Arizona has been among the 10 states reporting the highest percentage of residents who struggled to afford food.

To address this issue, states try to help their struggling residents afford food by offering food assistance programs. However, Congress passed an update to the Farm Bill in early 2014 that cuts approximately $8 billion from national food assistance programs over the next decade. This could make it harder for states to help their residents who struggle to afford food. Some states are trying to fight these cuts to continue to provide food assistance for their residents, but rising food prices nationally could make food affordability an even bigger issue in the coming year, regardless of the cuts.

When it comes to your health, your ZIP code matters more than your genetic code. While medical care and individual behavior are important, they aren’t the full story. Fairfax County, Va., and McDowell County, W.Va., are separated by 350 miles, about a half-day’s drive.  Fairfax is a place of the haves, and McDowell of the have-nots. The median household income in Fairfax County up to $107,000, one of the highest in the nation. McDowell’s, median household income is about one-fifth that of Fairfax. The starkest consequences of that divide is seen in the life expectancies of the people there. Residents of Fairfax County are among the longest-lived in the country: Men have an average life expectancy of 82 years and women, 85, about the same as in Sweden. In McDowell, the averages are 64 and 73, about the same as in Iraq. In McDowell, women’s life expectancy has actually fallen by two years since 1985; it grew five years in Fairfax. Across the country, For the upper half of the income spectrum, men who reach the age of 65 are living about six years longer than they did in the late 1970s. Men in the lower half are living just 1.3 years longer.

“Poverty is a thief,” said Michael Reisch, a professor of social justice at the University of Maryland, testifying before a Senate panel on the issue. “Poverty not only diminishes a person’s life chances, it steals years from one’s life.”

Everywhere, and across time, the poor tend to live shorter lives than the rich, whether researchers compare the Bangladeshis with the Dutch or minimum-wage workers with millionaires.

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