Monday, October 31, 2011

Mapping Poverty: A New Tool

The release of the new poverty data by the Census Bureau in September – confirmed what we already feared – that poverty has continued to rise over the past several years. In 2010 more than 16 million children in the United States –22 percent of all children – lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty level (which was about $22,300 a year for a family of four). Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Research also shows that living in poverty has a significant impact on immediate and long-term outcomes for families. According to Child Trends, poor children are more likely to have low academic achievement, drop out of school, and to have health, behavioral, and emotional problems. Furthermore, these linkages are particularly strong for children whose families experience deep poverty, who are poor during early childhood, and/or who are trapped in poverty for a long time.

The impact of poverty on children, families and communities is significant. However public policy aimed at supporting low-income working families, high quality early care and learning experiences and addressing families in greatest need all can help reduce poverty and mitigate its impact.

Half in Ten, recently released interactive tools that allow for users to map poverty by state and by Congressional District. The maps include data on the total population as well as demographic data including women, children, and racial/ethnic groups (where available).

For policymakers, working to support children and families living in poverty in their states is critical – to ensure a thriving population today – and in the future.

For more strategies to Ensure Children Grow Up in Safe, Supportive and Economically Successful Families visit

Thursday, October 13, 2011

NEW on! Increasing College Completion.

More than 40 million people now receive food stamps, an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2007, and economists predict that 1 in 4 children will be living in poverty in the near future. The brunt of this economic devastation is being borne by workers with the least education, who have suffered the greatest and most persistent job losses, plunging formerly working, self-sufficient families into poverty. Post-secondary education and training has kept more people competitive in this most recent recession but studies show that the United States will have one million fewer college graduates than will actually be needed to rebuild a strong economy for the future. As jobs change to require more education and as states transition to knowledge-based economies, policymakers need strategies to ensure improved college graduation rates. Policyfor now provides state policies to improve college readiness, access, persistence and completion.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TANF in Rural America

With TANF reauthorization on the horizon it is important for policymakers to consider the program’s impact and effectiveness across geographic areas. The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire released a report, TANF in Rural America Informing Re-authorization, to serve as a resource in considering the program’s affect in rural communities. The brief provides a new look at rural-urban differences in poverty rates and welfare receipt, as well as TANF’s impact on poor families. The Carsey Institute states that the report’s new appraisal is important for three reasons. First, there are persistent labor market disadvantages and barriers to work in rural areas. Second, the nation is enduring one of the deepest and most persis­tent economic downturns since the Great Depression and nonmetropolitan populations are often left out of the media spotlight. Third, the federal government will soon debate the reauthorization of TANF, which presents an opportunity to bring the unique circumstances of strug­gling rural Americans into policy discussions. The report spotlights data regarding the rural poverty and TANF including:

  • 24 percent of rural children living in poverty compared with 15 percent in suburban areas and 26 percent in central cities in 2009.
  • Poverty rates are particularly high among non-white children, with nearly half (49 percent) of rural black children and 37 percent of rural Hispanic children under age 18 living in poverty.
  • In 2009, just over 11 percent of poor rural families reported receiving any income from TANF, as compared to nearly 14 percent of poor urban families.
  • Cash assistance from TANF relieves, but does not eliminate, poverty because benefit levels are far too low to lift families above the poverty threshold. These ameliorative effects are weaker in rural than urban areas. Over time, the positive impacts of TANF receipt have continued to decline.

The report provides recommendations for the reauthorization of TANF including:

  • Keep America’s rural poor in mind
  • Acknowledge differences in ameliorative effect.
  • Re-establish the TANF Emergency Fund
  • Reinvigorate the Contingency Fund
  • Reconsider TANF Supplemental Grants

State policymakers are uniquely positioned to address the needs of urban, suburban and rural residents. Considering the resources available to guide decision-making so that the families in greatest need are supported is important – TANF reauthorization is a critical opportunity to address these needs.

For more strategies to Ensure Children Grow Up in Safe, Supportive and Economically Successful Families visit

Monday, October 3, 2011

Youth and Equity

An article from the Center for American Progress, Demographic Change Demands Equitable Policies for Youth of Color: Groups Are Increasing but Still Face Barriers to Opportunity, addresses the shifts in demographics in the United States and what that means for our country moving forward. The article states that while the country continues to become more diverse – there are still significant economic inequalities, and that these inequalities are particularly impacting young people. The article states that economic inequities continue to disproportionately affect young people of color—even those young people who successfully complete high school and those who graduate from college. The report highlights relevant data including:

  • Joblessness for African-American college graduates was at 19 percent, more than double what it was for white college graduates (8.4 percent), while 13.8 percent of Latino graduates were out of work.
  • Unemployment for African-American high school graduates under the age of 25 and not enrolled in college was 31.8 percent. Latino graduates were next with 22.8 percent in overall unemployment, compared to their white counterparts, at 20.3 percent.

The article suggests policy measures aimed at investing in newer generations of Americans so that they too have the opportunity to influence public policies that will directly affect their futures and those of the generations to follow, such as protecting immigrants’ rights and promoting youth civic engagement. For policymakers, promoting youth civic engagement not only helps to ensure the next generation of engaged and active citizens, but also promotes the health and well-being of the young people in their community.

For results-based policy strategies to increase high-school completion visit

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