The Great Recession has had a far-reaching and prolonged impact on poverty rates and income across the country with some places – like Greenwood County, South Carolina – seeing their poverty rates double and median household income drop by nearly $12,000, according to the New York Times. From 2007 to 2010, poverty rates increased in every state except five. The same is true for median household income – all states but five experienced decreases.  In 2010, poverty rates ranged from a low of 6.6 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 22.7 percent in Mississippi.  Check out The State of Poverty 2010 to learn more. 

U.S. Census Bureau figures released this week reveal that poverty levels were on the rise in 2010, with the percentage of Americans living in poverty at its highest point in 17 years.  Poverty rates range from a low of 6.6 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 22.7 percent in Mississippi.  Over the past 10 years the poverty rate increased in all but three states.  

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law an historic overhaul of the country’s welfare programs. Fifteen years later, during one of the most prolonged economic downturns in U.S. history, some states are actually seeing declines in the number of their citizens accessing TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - which is the nation’s cash assistance program for poor families with children.

Although childhood poverty rates declined throughout most of the 1990s, they have been on the rise again.  Between 2008 and 2009, child poverty jumped 10 percent – the single biggest year-over-year jump in the data’s history.  And from 2000-2009, rates increased in 38 states.  That means 1 in 5 children now live in poverty.

The number of poor children has been on the rise for the past 10 years, although those increases vary across state and racial and ethnic lines.  Higher childhood poverty rates mean bigger costs to states, including future health and criminal justice expenses.  

Approximately 40 million Americans received monthly food stamp benefits in 2010, up from about 26 million in 2007. Increased unemployment during the recession was a major contributing factor to the growth in the number of Americans depending upon SNAP. 

E-newsletter Issue #62/January 6, 2011

As states are pulling out of the Great Recession, they face a multitude of challenges—creating jobs, addressing poverty, repaying the federal government loans from the unemployment insurance trust funds and, generally, doing more with less money.

Fiscal challenges are the Hot Topic of the January/February issue of Capitol Ideas, the bimonthly magazine of...

Long-term unemployment and a depressed economy drove the number of Americans living in poverty up in a majority of states in 2009.  Poverty levels continue to vary significantly across regions, states and age groups.


CSG South

The Black Belt is a string of counties that stretches from east Texas, through the deep South, and up into eastern Virginia. While definitions vary, the region typically is considered to encompass upwards of 623 counties across 11 states, mostly rural, crossing several smaller regions, including parts of the Mississippi Delta, Coastal Plain, and the Piedmont. Booker T. Washington famously used the term “black belt” in his 1901 work Up from Slavery, noting the earliest meaning may have been a reference to the dark, rich soil of the region, but also acknowledging the later racial distinction of where black residents exceeded whites.

The Black Belt also is home to more poverty, substandard housing, unemployment and underemployment than any other region in the country. Educational attainment is lower in the Black Belt as well, particularly among the black population, and there is an exceptionally high number of female-headed households. Financial institution penetration in the region is low, even when compared to other rural communities. Health services are sparse and the ratio of residents to primary care providers is unusually high. Each of these factors contributes to the next and creates a circle of interdependence that is confounding in its complexity.

This Regional Resource examines some of the key obstacles to access to capital in the Black Belt, as well as emerging financing tools that may help this often-overlooked region. It also discusses ways in which state government can foster greater investment in this part of the country, and highlights a handful of successful programs that may serve as examples.