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FAMILIES & POVERTY. Family Sociology – Professor Connie Gager. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129914145. Families & Poverty. Despite many initiatives and billions of dollars, the percentage of people living below poverty has changed little over the past 30 years

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families poverty


Family Sociology – Professor Connie Gager



families poverty1
Families & Poverty
  • Despite many initiatives and billions of dollars, the percentage of people living below poverty has changed little over the past 30 years

1969 13.7

1979 12.4

1989 13.1

1998 12.7

2001 11.7

2003 12.4

2004 12.7

2007 12.5

2008 13.2

2010 14.3

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census

poverty in the u s
Poverty in the U.S.
  • Median household income in the United States fell 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303.
  • This breaks a string of three years of annual income increases and coincides with the recession that started in December 2007.
  •  Meanwhile, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008, while the percentage remained unchanged at 15.4 percent.

Source: http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/income_wealth/014227.html

Your likelihood of being poor, receiving welfare, and having health insurance is associated with your race and ethnicity

Poverty by Race/Ethnicity

  • Non-Hispanic White Families
  • 9.4 percent living below poverty
  • Asians American Families
  • 12.5 percent living below poverty
  • Non-Hispanic African American Families
  • 25.4 percent living below poverty
  • Hispanic Families
  • 25.3 percent living below poverty

Source: http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/income_wealth/014227.html

median family income increased
Median Family Income Increased

How do we measure Median Family Income?

Median family income reflects the income level at which one-half of all families in the U.S. earn more, and one-half earn less.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en. Retrieved 06/24/08.


Race and Ethnicity of Parents Receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families 2002


families public policy poverty

Families, Public Policy, & Poverty

How do we define poverty?

How would you calculate the line that separates the poor from the nonpoor?

Who are the deserving poor and why has the definition changed?

Who is more likely to be in poverty today – children or the elderly?

CHILDREN – they cannot work and they cannot vote

how do we define poverty
How Do We Define Poverty?
  • The official poverty level established by the United States Government.
  • How would you go about calculating or estimating who is poor an who isn’t?
  • Where would you draw the line?
how do we define poverty1
How Do We Define Poverty?
  • Poverty thresholds were developed in 1963-1964 by Mollie Orshansky, a home economist at the Social Security administration.
  • Based on the estimated cost of an “economy food budget” multiplied by 3 (assuming that food constitutes 1/3 of a family’s budget).
  • The economy food budget was “designed for temporary or emergency use when funds are low.”
  • It include powdered milk, canned food, few fresh vegetables and fruits
how do we define poverty2
How Do We Define Poverty?
  • Poverty thresholds define the poverty level
  • Used for statistical purposes – to show poverty over time
  • Adjusted for:
    • family size
    • number of children under 18 years of age
    • annually based on changes in the cost of living
  • Problems with this definition
    • Families living below poverty have inadequate incomes
    • Families just above line still teetering on the edge
how do we define poverty3
How Do We Define Poverty?
  • Poverty guidelines
  • Issued each year by the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
  • Used for administrative purposes -- for instance determining who is eligible for federal programs like:

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or welfare.

poverty guidelines for recent years
Poverty Guidelines for Recent Years*

Year First Four Person Each Add’l

Person Family Person

1992 $6,810 $13,950 $2,380

1996 $7,740 $15,600 $2,620

1998 $8,050 $16,450 $2,800

2000 $8,350 $17,050 $2,900

2004 $9,310 $18,850 $3,180

2010 $10,830 $22,050 $3,740

* for the 48 contiguous states and D.C.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services http://www.os.dhhs.gov

can a family live on this
Can a family live on this?
  • Think about a family of 3 – a mother with two children) who are the typical family who receives welfare
  • Think about rent, electricity, transportation, food, clothes for growing children etc.
the deserving poor
The Deserving Poor
  • Michael Katz – studies history of poverty in the U.S.
  • He argues that there have always been a group of people called the deserving poor – they deserve to get assistance from the government
  • They are poor through no fault of their own
  • Prior to the 1970s, this group included the:
    • Aged
    • Children
    • Female headed families (through widowhood)
the deserving poor1
The Deserving Poor
  • Now the deserving poor are only
    • Aged
    • Children
    • Disabled/mentally challenged
    • The deserving poor no longer includes single mothers because they came to be perceived as poor because they made bad choices – i.e. had a child outside of marriage
    • Shift from single motherhood due to widowhood vs. single motherhood due to nonmarital birth
why are families poor
Why are Families Poor?
  • Underclass Thesis
  • William Julius Wilson – The Truly Disadvantaged
  • Economic, structural argument
  • Blames changes in the economic system for creation of the underclass
  • Deindustrialization, change from manufacturing to service–oriented jobs – and then most industry went oversees
  • Decline in real male wages
underclass thesis
Underclass Thesis
  • William Julius Wilson – The Truly Disadvantaged
  • Definition of the Underclass:
  • Wilson describes the underclass as a subpopulation of low-income individuals who behavior contrasts sharply with that of mainstream U.S. society
  • The underclass are the result of economic changes especially decreased blue collar jobs in the northeast and midwest, as companies have moved south or overseas
underclass thesis1
Underclass Thesis
  • Definition of the Underclass:
  • Underclass inhabit inner city neighborhoods characterized by high rates of:
    • inner-city joblessness
    • teenage pregnancy
    • births to unmarried women
    • welfare dependency
    • female-headed families
    • serious crime
truly disadvantaged
Truly Disadvantaged
  • In sum, Wilson blames the system for poverty
  • People are poor because of changes in the economy of U.S.
  • Blames the system not individuals for being poor
  • About 14.3 percent of the U.S. population lives below the official poverty line
  • The poverty rate is calculated as three time the cost of a MINIMUM ADEQUATE diet per month
  • Thus, the poverty line is set artificially low
  • High rates of poverty and unemployment indicate a systemic problem
  • People are poor due to problems in the economy and society