White Paper on the Poor and the Great Recession

A White Paper requested by Tavis and published by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs has found that many Americans are poor or “at risk” of becoming poor due to the Great Recession, and they continue to struggle during the recovery.

The report – “At Risk: America’s Poor During and After the Great Recession” – is available online and discussed by the “Remaking America” panelists.

Specific White Paper findings include:

Poverty has increased significantly. Some 46.2 million Americans lived below the official poverty level in 2010, about 15.1 percent of the population. The number of Americans living in poverty grew by 27 percent between 2006 and 2010, when the U.S. population increased by only 3.3 percent.

Increases in poverty were greatest among Hispanics and African Americans, children, and households headed by women. Poverty also increased among working-age adults, especially people between ages 18 and 34. States with the highest poverty rates were in the South and Southwest, but states with the largest increases in poverty were scattered across the nation.

Safety-net programs had a mixed response to the recession. Entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Unemployment Insurance, responded robustly, but programs that depend on discretionary spending were less effective.

The Great Recession’s impact on the poor would have been even worse if not for the 2009 stimulus package, which included $250 billion aimed at protecting low-income Americans. But most of the stimulus funds have now been spent.

Federal deficits are creating pressures to control spending, which may adversely affect the poor. The 2011 debt ceiling legislation and the failure of the congressional “super committee” will trigger spending cuts. While entitlement programs are protected, that could change with some in Congress arguing that national defense deserves a higher priority.

States face their own fiscal problems, with the stimulus ending and state tax collections lagging. Some are cutting state spending on programs such as Medicaid and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. More are likely to follow suit, especially if the strapped federal government pushes more responsibility to the states.

Be sure to explore this White Paper and share your thoughts below.

Last modified: January 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm