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Report: poverty at highest level since '60s

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 11/2/2011, 6:54 p.m.

Reports indicate that the official poverty level in America is 15 percent. The latest numbers coming in from the U.S. Census reveal that poverty is at an all-time high since numbers were recorded in the 1960s.

Over 45 million people in America are living in poverty, including almost one in four children, 22 percent. The number of children in poverty has not been this high since 1993.

And with Thanksgiving this month, those going hungry are also on the rise, with 15.6 million children getting food stamps, a 65 percent increase from 10 years ago. Nearly 50 million Americans live in households deemed "food insecure," with many households having to choose between buying food or paying bills like utilities, rent, mortgages and even medical bills.

In terms of jobs, recent numbers reveal that 14 million Americans are not working, with four unemployed workers for every one job opening. Blacks are still feeling the brunt of the economic crisis, with 16 percent unemployed.

Breaking down poverty by race, Blacks and Hispanics are both feeling the pain the most, with a poverty rate around 27 percent for each group. For whites, the rate is just below 10 percent. One-third of Black children are living in poverty.

While these numbers may seem depressing, bad choices are not to blame but rather an economy that simply doesn't have enough jobs to go around. Some critics might also factor in job discrimination.

David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society (CSS), said that the numbers for low-income New Yorkers are even more startling, with 1.6 million living below the poverty level.

"In 2010, the poverty rate in our city rose to 20.1 percent, a 1.4 percentage point jump over the 2009 rate of 18.7 percent. That far exceeds the national poverty rate of 15.1 percent," he said. "The yearly increase in poverty was also substantially higher for New York City than for the nation, up 1.4 percentage points compared to a rise of .8 percentage points for the country."

Jones added that in the city, Latinos are now at the top when it comes to poverty, with a rate of almost 30 percent. The poverty rate for Blacks in the city is 23 percent. Education and family structure also play a role in poverty, according to Jones.

He said, "New Yorkers who have not finished high school had a poverty rate of 30.8 percent compared to 18.7 percent for those with a diploma or GED and 7 percent for college graduates. But single mothers experienced by far the highest levels of poverty; 41.1 percent in 2010, up from 38.8 percent in 2009."

In the CSS annual survey, titled "The Unheard Third 2010," the numbers reveals that four out of 10 had their hourly wages go down and over one-third fell behind in rent. Nearly 60 percent say they worry all or most of the time that their earnings will not be enough to pay the bills.

"What's more, they have virtually no savings to fall back on in event of an emergency," Jones said. "Many low-income New Yorkers are just one illness, one lost paycheck or one emergency away from destitution-even those working full-time."