Poverty Steady for Most, Outlook Still Bleak

written by Martena Reed
September 17, 2013

In 2012, 46.5 million people were in poverty and 20.4 million people were in deep poverty or had income below half of their poverty threshold.

Today the Census Bureau released 2012 poverty data from its Current Population Survey. The results aren’t a whole lot different than last year, but they still look bad in comparison to 2007, the year before the Great Recession. In 2012, the poverty rate was 2.5 percentage points higher and the median household income was 8.3 percent lower.

For the second year in a row, there was no significant change in the national poverty rate or the number of people in poverty, but we did see some changes in a few subpopulations. Poverty among people 65 and older, people living in the south, and people living in more rural areas increased.

The poverty data did give us some good news. Between 2011 and 2012: 

  • Poverty dropped in the West. And, after declining for four years in a row, median household income in the West increased by 3.2 percent.
  • Median household income in large cities increased by 3.2 percent.

The Worse Case Housing Needs report released in August showed a shrinking amount of affordable housing and more people burdened by the cost of rent. Poverty is staying about the same, but more people are paying more than half their income in rent.   

Poverty is steady; affordable housing is lacking; and sequestration threatens the safety net. We can make a quick link to homelessness: continued high poverty rates with decreasing affordable housing puts more households at risk of homelessness. 

So what can you do? Use your voice and use the data. Call your senators and representatives during HUD funding call-in week to let them know the importance of housing and homelessness programs.