Poverty Data

I saw these two, among several other articles on the consequences of the recession and thought I would share them, along with some information that I have not yet seen reported anywhere.

Last Year’s Poverty Rate Was Highest in 12 Years

Poverty hits 1 in 8 Americans

As the articles illustrate, the recession has led to an increase in the number of people in poverty, and an actual relative decrease in income levels.  It is actually shocking to see that the purchasing power of the average American is below where it was a decade ago.  Local data is not yet available for this information, however state data is.  Here are some data for state poverty levels:

United States Massachusetts
2008 2007 2008 2007
All People 13.2% 12.5% 11.3% 11.2%
Under 18 19.0% 18.0% 17.1% 17.1%
School age children 17.4% 16.5% 18.1% 15.0%
65 and over 9.7% 9.7% 9.3% 10.3%

One thing that the poverty numbers do not relate, is the difference between regions.  While a quick review of the table suggests that Massachusetts is doing better than the country in general, the cost of living in Massachusetts is higher than many areas of the country.  As such, these percentages are quite misleading.  The poverty line is not adjusted by regions.  The national poverty line is $10,991 for an individual and $22,025 for a family of four.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that New England, California, Hawaii and Alaska have the highest costs of living.  Our overall cost of living, in Massachusetts in 2008, was 27.6% higher than the national average.  Housing costs were 78.9% higher.

The cost of living index would suggest that the poverty level should be set at $14,024 for an individual and $28,104 for a family of four.  These levels would vastly increase the poverty percentages in the state, and similarly in Dennis.  It likely suggests that our real poverty levels are as high as 14.4% for all people, 11.9% for those over 65 and 23.1% for school age children.  A pretty scary economic situation.

The poverty level is also significantly below the income level of those qualifying for affordable housing.  Given the poverty levels exceed 10%, suggests that the housing levels targeted in Chapter 40B are too low, and the town needs to be sure that we continue to strive to increase affordable housing for all income sectors.

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