Since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964, the rate of young children in poverty has only slightly decreased.
“It is the case that children are more often poor...

Among the world's 35 richest countries, the U.S. ranks second highest in the rate of childhood poverty. Achievement gaps between the poor and the non-poor are twice as large as the achievement gap between black and white students. And cognitive differences--which vary extensively by income and poverty status--likely contribute to a young adult's accessibility to and success in college, further limiting economic and social mobility and fueling the gap between rich and poor. This webinar, presented by CSG's State Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, showcased ways state policymakers can utilize their role to reduce the impact of child poverty on educational success.

If state leaders want to know the effects of programs aimed at helping the poor, they can find the answers in alternative poverty measures. “States want to know what’s going on with the programs they are using to fight poverty and how well are they doing,” Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty and professor of public affairs and economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said during a CSG webinar.

Few changes have been made to the official federal poverty measure since it was adopted in 1969 despite growing concern over its accuracy and usefulness. To address these concerns, both governmental and nongovernmental organizations have developed alternative ways of measuring poverty.

The U.S. Census Bureau uses the federal poverty threshold to determine the poverty rate and count the number of people in poverty each year. That threshold, which has been calculated the same way for nearly 50 years, is often criticized for being outdated and inaccurate. 

<--break->The Economic Policy Institute offers an alternative measure of the income needed to afford an adequate standard of living. The...

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.

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.  

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