A new report from the Half in Ten campaign examines poverty trends in the wake of the recession. The report establishes a set of indicators to measure progress towards combating economic inequality across three categories: creating good jobs, strengthening communities, and building economic security. The availability of affordable housing is highlighted as a key indicator of economic security in the United States. Half in Ten was launched by the Center for American Progress in 2008 to cut poverty in half in ten years through public policy initiatives.
The report establishes a baseline dataset from which Half in Ten will track progress towards reducing poverty on both a national and statewide basis each year. The primary indicator tracked by the report is the number of people living below 50%, 100% and 200% of the official poverty line. In 2010, the report’s authors found that one in six Americans were living below 100% of the official poverty line. The annual report will also use the Supplemental Poverty Measure as a key indicator. This measure provides a more accurate perspective on poverty by accounting for government antipoverty programs as well as tax payments and the cost of child care.
Much of the report focuses on the decline of good jobs that provide decent wages and benefits. The economic indicators track unemployment, wages and benefits across different demographic groups. Report findings indicate that in 2010, the lowest wage workers, who earn less than two-thirds of the median wage, were the least likely to receive health care benefits, paid holidays, sick leave or assistance with child care. For example, while 93% of those in the top quarter of wage earners had access to health care benefits, only 41% of those in the bottom quarter had access.
As a measure of economic security, the report highlights the importance of major safety net programs for low-wage workers, including affordable housing and food stamps. Drawing from NLIHC’s gap analysis of affordable units available to very low income and extremely low income households, the report identifies the lack of affordable and available housing in every state across the country as a threat to household economic stability.
The report concludes with a summary of Half in Ten’s recommendations for expanding economic opportunities for Americans. These recommendations include targeted investment in infrastructure projects to create jobs and efforts to prevent layoffs of public service workers in low income communities. Additionally, the campaign supports protecting existing programs that protect and support low income families, including housing assistance. Half in Ten also supports expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to low income workers without children. Lastly, the campaign supports safety net programs that allow participants to build assets, and policies that protect low income families from predatory financial practices.
The report, Restoring Shared Prosperity: Strategies to Cut Poverty and Expand Economic Growth, state fact sheets and other related resources are available on the Halfinten.org website.