On January 7, a new report covering American attitudes towards poverty was released by the Center for American Progress (CAP). The report summarizes findings from focus groups and a poll of 2,000 adults, demonstrating that Americans are largely supportive of government initiatives to decrease poverty. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans believe that volatile economic conditions are the primary force driving poverty rates, rather than the personal decisions of poor people.
Today, Americans with the lowest incomes still face barriers in accessing affordable health care, housing, education, and good-paying jobs. Between 25% and 34% of surveyed American adults reported serious difficultly paying bills, keeping up with rent, buying enough food, or affording medical care. Overall, 61% of Americans reported experiencing incomes falling behind the cost of living.
Eighty-six percent of Americans believe that government resources should be used to combat poverty, with policies to expand affordable child care for low-wage workers (86%) and expand nutrition assistance (85%) receiving the strongest support from poll respondents. Additionally, when asked about support for a national goal to reduce poverty by half in 10 years, 70% of Americans said they would support the goal, with 40% indicating strong support.
Also on January 7, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report finding that nearly a third (31.6%) of Americans lived in poverty for at least two months between 2009 and 2011. The report presents data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), collected between January 2009 and December 2011.
Of the 37.6 million people who were in poverty at the beginning of 2009, 35.4% were no longer in poverty by 2011. However, of those who exited poverty, approximately half continued to have incomes of less than 150% of the poverty threshold. In addition, 13.5 million people who were not in poverty in 2009 fell into poverty by 2011.
Approximately 44% of poverty spells ended within four months, while 15.2% lasted more than two years. The median length of a poverty spell has increased, from 5.7 months (2005-2007) to 6.6 months (2009-2011).
The Census Bureau’s findings show how widely the effects of poverty are felt across the country, and the CAP poll findings show widespread support for policies to maintain the social safety net and expand economic opportunity.
The report, 50 Years After LBJ’s War on Poverty: A Study of American Attitudes About Work, Economic Opportunity, and the Social Safety Net, is available on the Center for American Progress website at: http://bit.ly/1gC6Ins
The U.S. Census Bureau’s research brief, Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Poverty, 2009-2011, is available at: https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p70-137.pdf