EDITORIAL: Poverty increases

The poverty rate in the United States in 2009 was the highest on record (51 years of record-keeping and analysis), and Mississippi, the poorest state by most measures for a long time, remains in that position – 23.1 percent in poverty. The nationwide rate, by contrast, was 14.3 percent.
The Census Bureau’s numbers aren’t a political product, they’re non-partisan, and they offer statistical evidence of what a recession means for millions of people – in Mississippi and every other state.
Census experts reported that 43.6 million people were below the poverty line, and using figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Price Index, the Census Bureau said the threshold for poverty for a family of four last year was $21,954.
It is noteworthy that the poverty rate and numbers increased most in the South during 2009, from 14.3 percent (15.86 million) to 15.7 percent (17.60 million), and the South led the nation in both percentage and numerical increase.
African-Americans and Hispanics were especially hard hit, with more than 25 percent in each group below the poverty line, the Census found.
In Mississippi, that means that several hundred thousand Mississippians are struggling more because 38 percent of our people are African-Americans, and increasing numbers are Hispanic. Mississippi, Arizona, New Mexico and Arkansas were the poorest states in the Census reports, and New Hampshire had the lowest poverty by percent, at 7.8 percent.
Barbara Luke in the Office of the Mississippi State Economist, said the recession is the main reason for the increase. It is a pattern seen in every other economic down-spiral causing high unemployment – under leadership of both parties.
The official poverty rate nationwide in 2009,14.3 percent, was up from 13.2 percent in 2008.
The regional contrasts suggest that the South, including Mississippi, has not developed the job resilience of other regions and that more southerners remain vulnerable in a recession economy.
Mississippi and the South have made gains over decades, but our state and region have not overcome the gap in incomes, jobs, and educational attainment that is our historic liability.
Mississippi obviously has not achieved the parity sought by many and promised by mulitples of politicians in both major parties since the statistics were first measured.
(The findings are contained in the report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. The results for the nation were compiled from information collected in the 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement.)

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