Household Economics

This Act requires the state finance commission to adopt rules governing requests by title insurance companies for payoff information from mortgage servicers related to home loans and the provision of that information, including rules prescribing a standard payoff statement form that must be used by mortgage servicers to provide those payoff statements.

Stateline Midwest ~ October 2012

Poverty rates and income inequality are on the rise in most parts of the Midwest, new U.S. Census Bureau data show, with the former reflecting current economic woes and the latter continuing a decades-long trend.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will propose new rules this Thursday that will give states the capacity to investigate food stamp recipients who seek replacement benefit cards more than three times a year. The new rules will also allow states to demand formal explanations from recipients who say they’ve lost their cards. In total, food stamp fraud costs American taxpayers around $750 million a year, equal to about 1 percent of the USDA’s total budget for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The majority of fraud occurs when retailers allow customers to turn in their benefits cards for lesser amounts of cash. But USDA officials are also concerned about people selling or trading cards in the open market, including on the internet.

Legislators in several states are considering raising the minimum wage this year, but the issue is controversial. Proponents of raising state minimum wages argue that while the federal rate has remained stagnant—it hasn’t increased since 2009—the costs for housing, food, utilities and health care have continued to climb. This leaves those earning minimum wage with less money to afford the basics, which in turn puts downward pressure on the demand for goods and services. Opponents warn that raising the wage now would have a negative impact on businesses—especially during anemic economic times—and that a minimum wage hike actually hurts those that it intends to help by forcing employers to cut jobs at the low end of the pay scale.

A number of states are considering raising their minimum wages this year and/or tying those wages to an inflationary measure. Proponents of raising state minimum wages argue that while the federal rate has remained stagnant (it hasn’t increased since 2009), the costs for housing, food, utilities and health care have continued to climb, leaving those earning the minimum wage with less money to afford the basics, which in turn puts downward pressure on the demand for goods and services. Opponents warn that raising the wage now would have a negative impact on businesses – especially during anemic economic times – and that a minimum wage hike actually hurts those that it intends to help by forcing employers to cut jobs at the low end of the pay scale.

Nearly one in five people (18.6%) reported that they faced a food hardship at some point in 2011, but in some states – particularly in the South – that figure jumps to almost one in four. That’s according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), who analyzed survey data collected by Gallup through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The specific question Gallup posed to survey takers was: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”  A “yes” answer to this question indicates that the respondent experienced a “food hardship” or, as the Census Bureau/USDA calls it, “food insecurity”.

There’s been a lot of news lately about rising income inequality, or how income is distributed across the population.  The spike in attention is largely due to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that found that between 1979 and 2007, after-tax income for the nation’s wealthiest households grew significantly more than any other income group. And according to a new poll from the The Hill, 55 percent of likely voters say they believe income inequality has become a big problem for the country.  

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.  

Per capita personal income often is used to evaluate the economic well-being of a state’s residents. Nationally in 2010, inflation-adjusted per capita personal income grew by $780 after dropping more than $1,000 in 2009 and falling $541 in 2008. 

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