A sharp racial/ethnic divide has emerged within the world of low-income working families, posing a critical equity and economic challenge to Connecticut and the nation, a new study concludes
Unless lawmakers in Connecticut are willing to pursue policies that would improve conditions, African-Americans and Latinos will continue to emerge as a larger - but under-prepared and underpaid - segment of the workforce.
The disturbing portrait of America's low-income working families was sketched by the Working Poor Families Project based on new analysis of the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Project's study sheds a fresh light on what's happening inside the world of the working poor, where adults are working hard but find it difficult if not impossible to get ahead. And within this world at the bottom of America's economic spectrum, a stark divide has emerged between white and Asian families compared to black and Latino families.
"In 2013, working families headed by racial/ethnic minorities were twice as likely to be poor or low-income compared with non-Hispanic whites, a gap that has increased since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007," the authors write. "The significant differences among racial/ethnic groups present a critical challenge to ensuring economic growth and bringing opportunities to all workers, families and communities across the United States."
In Connecticut, there are 77,161 low-income working families, meaning their total income fell below 200 percent of the official poverty rate. Of that total, 38.6% percent are minorities compared to only 11.5% percent who are white. Some 37% percent of all black working families fall into the low-income category, as do 48.1% percent of all Hispanic working families.
These disparities impact our economy but they also harm the fabric of our communities here in Connecticut. It's past time that we address these problems at the state level.
Latinos are particularly at risk because so many of their low-income working families include at least one immigrant parent, the data show. Despite a high work ethic, Latino immigrants are among the most disadvantaged with lower earnings, less education and little healthcare. Nationally, some 14 million of the 24 million children who live in low-income working families belong to racial or ethnic minorities. This bodes poorly for the nation's future as children who grow up in low-income families face the very real prospect of never escaping poverty, the study found.
Disparities cannot be erased overnight, but policymakers can start to reduce the gaps with a two-pronged approach that simultaneously increases access to education and training while enacting policies that "make work pay," the researchers assert. State governments have demonstrated success with policy initiatives including:
- Raising the minimum wage.
- Increasing need-based financial aid for postsecondary education and expanding child care assistance and other supports for students with children.
- Supporting programs that link education to career opportunities and helping English language learners.
- Extending Medicaid benefits to all who are eligible.
- Encouraging employers to provide paid sick leave for all workers.
Providing all low-income families with the tools they need to succeed is critical to the long-term health of our state and nation. said Senserrich. Our state's leaders must take action to ensure the American Dream is once again accessible by all.
This is a first in a series of posts that CAHS will be doing on the 2014 Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT National Data Book release. Below is our press release that summarizes the reports findings regarding CT’s kids. Stay tuned for updates – including a recap of today’s release event at the Legislative Office Building (find more information and RSVP here) and posts that take a deeper dive into the 16 indicators that give us insight to the health, education, economic-well being and family and community context of our states’s children. The full report is available now here.
Child Poverty in Connecticut Has Increased Since 1990 despite Education Gains, New National Publication Reports
Number of children living in poverty has increased by 50 percent in the past 25 years according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book
Hartford – The number of children living in poverty in Connecticut has increased by 50 percent since 1990, according to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Nationwide, child poverty numbers are up since the recent recession, with nearly 16.4 million children in families below the federal poverty level. The good news is that both nationally and in Connecticut there have been steady improvements over the past 25 years in the numbers of children attending preschool and a decline in the number of students not proficient in reading and math.
Connecticut is ranked 7th overall on the report’s child well-being indicators that span education, health, economic well-being, and family and community context. The state ranked as high as 3rd in the pre-recession 2006 and 2007 years. The KIDS COUNT Data Book evaluates the latest data on children and families for every state, the District of Columbia, and the nation.
Comparing data collected in 1990, the first year the KIDS COUNT Data Book was released, to the most recent available data, the 25th edition of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book reveals that in Connecticut:
- Housing costs are a burden to children and their families. Over 40 percent of children in Connecticut are living in families that spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing. This places Connecticut near the bottom of all states (43rd).
- More children are living in high poverty neighborhoods. The percentage of children living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty has nearly doubled since 1990. There has also been a significant increase in the number of children living in single parent families. In 1990, it was 1 in 5 children; in 2014 the report finds that it is now 1 in 3 children.
- Children are progressing in the areas of education and health. Connecticut’s children have improved significantly in education since 1990 – graduation rates and test scores have seen double digit percentage increases, and the state ranks 1st in the nation on the number of children who report a preschool experience. Connecticut also has a comparatively low-rate of uninsured children, and the lowest child and teen death rate in the country.
“This newest report shows us that Connecticut, one of the wealthiest states in the country, is falling behind,” said Jim Horan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS). “The report also shows that a strong commitment paired with investment can bring about results. In recent years the Governor and the legislature have prioritized universal preschool access, and this year we were ranked number one in children reporting preschool experiences.”
Horan added, “We need to show this same commitment to our state’s poorest families in other areas – we need to allocate our time and resources to proven workforce training and support programs, greater affordable housing options, and outreach to our most vulnerable neighborhoods.
As the KIDS COUNT Data Book is being released in Baltimore, CAHS will be holding a conversation about the findings of the report, and next steps for the state, at a July 22 event at the State’s Legislative Office Building, Room 1C. The event will begin at 11:00 a.m.
The 2014 National KIDS COUNT Data Book is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being. Data Center users can create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and view real-time information on mobile devices.
The Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) is a nonprofit policy and program organization that promotes family economic security strategies to empower low-income working families to achieve financial independence. Our mission is to end poverty and engage, equip, and empower all families in Connecticut to build a secure future.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Thirty years ago, in the 1980s, close to 60% of the income of all Americans came from work. Today, this figure is barely over 50%. This numbers come from a wonderful study produced by Wells Fargo (you can find it here). Danielle Kurtzleben, at Vox, highlights this chart that explains were income is coming from now:
Surprised? Government transfers have increased its share five points, although the reason behind this is simple: demographics. There are many more Americans on social security now than 34 years ago, meaning that a higher share of income comes from the government, not from wages. This is part of a long term trend - and it is one of the few things that have contributed to the very modest rise in income for most Americans in the last few decades.
Of course, this graph doesn´t tell us much about how income is being distributed, and how it compares to the returns of capital. We discussed this last month, talking about inequality - more here. Spoiler alert: it is not pretty.
The new census numbers are out, and include some surprising, sobering facts. Poverty remains unchanged; incomes are still still flat. A staggering 15% of Americans live under the Federal Poverty Line. The fact that this number stopped increasing like in previous years should not mask the fact that it is still appallingly high.
The number that really should worry us, however, is median household income. Or to be more precise, this graph:
Median household income in the United States of America is lower than at any point since 1989. That is, the median American family had a higher income 24 years ago ($51,681) that in 2012 ($51,017). Even taking into account the fact that adjusting for inflation for long time periods is tricky, these numbers are truly disappointing. The country has created a staggering amount of wealth for the past two decades (the economy is 75% larger today as it was in the late eighties; GDP per capita is 40% higher), but the middle class has barely seen any of it.
Where did the money go? Mostly to those at the top of the income distribution, with those at the very top reaping most of the bounty. The top 1% households earned 20% of the total income generated by the US economy, an unprecedented sum. Middle class wages have stagnated for the past 24 years; those at the very top are making more money than ever before. We have a whole generation of American middle class families that had not seen any progress whatsoever in their standard of living for more than a decade, and the great recession has moved them back to where they were 24 years ago.
The US as a whole generates more wealth today than ever before. Most of us, however, are not seeing this wealth.