Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2012 Poverty Data: New Data from the U.S. Census on Poverty, Income, and Health Insurance.

Earlier today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2012 data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage. For the second consecutive year, neither the official poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty at the national level were statistically different from the previous year’s estimates—the poverty rate remained at 15 percent – amounting to 46.5 million people living in poverty. While there was not an increase in the poverty rate, the 2012 data still indicated significant racial disparities in both poverty and income. The poverty rates among non-Hispanic Whites and Asians were 9.7 percent and 11.7 percent respectively, while the poverty rates for Blacks and Hispanics were 27.2 percent and 25.6 percent respectively.

Poverty and Income Data Highlights
  • The percent of people in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of the poverty threshold, remained at 6.6 percent from 2011, which is still a substantial increase from the 5.2 percent rate seen in 2006 and 2007 (prior to the recession) and even from the data collected in 1967 where deep poverty was at 4.4 percent.
  • The poverty rates for children, those under the age of 18, was 21.8 percent, not statistically different from 2011.
  • Median household income in 2012 was $51,017, not statistically different from the 2011 median income of $51,100.
Health Insurance Data Highlights
  • The percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased to 15.4 percent from 15.7 percent between 2011 and 2012, while the number of uninsured people in 2012 was not statistically different from 2011, at 48 million people.
  • The percentage and number of people covered by government health insurance increased to 32.6 percent and 101.5 million people in 2012 up slightly from 32.2 percent and 99.5 million people in 2011.
  • The percentage of Asians and Hispanics without health insurance decreased from 16.8 percent and 30.1 percent to 15.1 percent and 29.1 percent respectively.
  • The percentage of uninsured children decreased from 9.4 percent to 8.9 percent in 2012.
Safety Net Programs
  • Unemployment insurance was able to raise 1.7 million people out of poverty in 2012.
  • Social Security income helped 15.3 million people aged 65 and older out of poverty in 2012 – if these payments were excluded - it would quadruple the number of elderly people living in poverty.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while not included in the poverty calculations used for the data today, if considered, would have reduced the number of people in poverty by 4 million people in 2012.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) also reduced the number of children classified as living in poverty in 2012 by 2.9 million children.
The Important Role of Public Policy. Public policy helps create pipelines of educational opportunity and new jobs. It also creates the supports and services that help poor individuals and families while they work toward those opportunities. As evident in the data, the most noticeable statistic changes that occurred in 2012 were in health insurance coverage – with the number of uninsured children dropping from 9.4 percent to 8.9 percent in 2012.  This demonstrates the critical value of policies that make a public investment in children and families. Public investments have proven to have a real impact on reducing poverty – and subsequently improving the quality of life for millions of children and families. Unfortunately, the $85 billion in cuts to supports and services as a result of sequestration are likely to only exacerbate the conditions of poverty and increase the percentage of those living in unacceptable conditions – unable to meet their basic needs.

The Need for a Focus on Equity. The racial disparities in the poverty data indicate that Black and Hispanic families have continued to have disproportionately higher poverty rates and lower incomes compared to White families, which has been consistent for more than three decades. This inequity shows the need for innovative solutions and public investments aimed at supporting real change.  Policy strategies should take into account the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes—attention to equity creates solutions that best meet the needs of the entire community.

To read CSSP's Statement on the New Poverty Data and Implications for Children and Families please click here.

More from our blog: a primer on poverty measurement and the Census instruments used.

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