Week in Review: A poorer America

Week in Review: A poorer America

More and more Americans are living on less income, don't have access to health insurance and are slipping in poverty. That was the story of the week on The Chicago Reporter's Muckraker's blog, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's snapshot of the economic state of households across the country.

The numbers, simply put, aren't pretty.

As we noted on Tuesday, 15.1 percent of Americans fell beneath the federal poverty level in 2010, about $22,000 for a family of four. Median household income declined by 2.3 percent versus 2009. Incomes for many have been stagnant or falling for years, now.

Minorities are far more likely to be poor than white people, the census found. Just under 10 percent of non-Hispanic, white people were poor in 2010, while more than 27 percent of African Americans and 26 percent of Latinos were counted as poor. Twenty-two percent of all American children are poor.

Young people increasingly are living with their parents, the census reported, and that familial support is the only thing keeping them out of poverty. The agency estimated there were 900,000 more people without insurance in 2010 than there were in 2009.

Women face higher poverty rates than men, we pointed out on Wednesday:

The poverty rate among women was 14.5 percent in 2010, up from 13.9 percent in 2009. Like the nation's poverty rate, it's the highest rate in 17 years. By contrast, the poverty rate for men in 2010 was 11.2 percent, rising from 10.5 percent in 2009.

In addition, more women are living in "extreme poverty," defined as having an income less than half of the poverty level.  That number was 6.3 percent in 2010, an increase from 5.9 percent in 2009, the highest rate since this was first measured 22 years ago.

Poverty rates were even higher among select groups of women, particularly women of color and single moms. A quarter of all black and Hispanic women live in poverty. While 38.5 percent of single moms lived in poverty in 2009, that number is up to 40.7 percent.

Keep an eye on the Muckraker's blog for more analysis of poverty trends in the U.S., in Illinois and in Chicago.

In other news, the Reporter's Angela Caputo published a piece on the blog Tuesday about how she started working on her recent investigation. "One and Done." It all started with research Caputo was doing on the state of 17-year-olds in the Cook County criminal justice system. Read the entire piece here.

Megan Cottrell, meanwhile, wrote this week about affirmative action, a controversial subject that has been at the center of court and political battles for years now. To quote from Cottrell's piece:

 After decades of affirmative action policies, are minority students finally getting a leg-up, causing white students to have less opportunity?

A new study from financial aid guru Mark Kantrowitz says no. White students still receive the vast majority of college scholarships, both private and merit-based. Even though white students make up less than two-thirds of the college population, they get over 76 percent of scholarship money. White students are 40 percent more likely to get a scholarship than minority students.

Over at City Hall, aldermen this week said they were worried that problem landlords were still getting public subsides from municipal goverment. It's an issue the Reporter has covered closely. On Thursday, 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman said that rental subsidies provided through the city's Low Income Housing Trust Fund were flowing to bad buildings in his ward. There was no immediate answer to how the city could deal with the issue.

State goverment was roiled recently when Gov. Pat Quinn said budgetary decisions the Illinois General Assembly made this spring will force him to close seven state institutions, including the medium-security Logan Correctional Facility.

But the leader of the prison watchdog group the John Howard Association said the state prison system needs bigger reforms than just closing a prison. John Maki, John Howard's executive director, told the Reporter that closing Logan without a broader plan in place to reduce the state's overall corrections population would exacerbate overcrowded conditions, putting guards and prisoners' safety at risk.

In other Chicago news outlets this week, the Chicago News Cooperative wrote that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration and many of labor unions that represent city employees have agreed to implement a new wellness program "involving frequent health screenings or pay $50 a month more for medical insurance coverage." The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday that the Fraternal Order of Police, however, had not agreed to the program. Health care costs the city $500 million per year.

Governor Pat Quinn was in the news Monday for vetoing the so-called "Smart Grid" bill, the Chicago Tribune reported. "ComEd claimed the legislation was essential because it would provide a more stable way to recover the costs of smart-grid implementation -- removing regulatory lag and uncertainty. But changes in the bill would have a profound effect on how rates are determined, how often rate hikes occur and how much profit ComEd would receive," according to the paper.

A final note: don't miss the Chicago Reader Steve Boriga's two-part piece, "The Price of Intolerance." Published on September 1 and September 8, the story investigates the 1971 death of a young girl in a South Side neighborhood in the throes of racial change.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

Filed under: Race and Racism

Tags: Week in Review

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  • "More and more Americans are living on less income, don't have access to health insurance and are slipping in poverty."

    So, it doesn't look like the Obama economic plan is working, does it? I thought everyone was supposed to have health insurance.

    Of course, I'm sure that you'll take the Schakowsky view that if we put even more money into asphalt and bankrupt solar energy companies, the stimulus would have worked. The Democratic Congress had free reign for two years (2009-2010), but you are saying that things are getting worse.

    In any event, if you don't like what Obama is doing, I'm sure the alternative will be worse in the ideologues' minds.

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