U.S. Poverty and a Shrinking Middle Class, by the Numbers

According the an Associated Press article from December 15, recent census data shows a shrinking middle class, with nearly half of all Americans poor or low-income. Here is a look at this portion of the U.S. population, by the numbers.

97.3 million Americans fall into the low-income category. Low-income is described as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level. 146.4 million Americans had incomes below the poverty line.

About $45,000 a year for a family of four is what is needed to stay above the low-income threshold. Many families are slipping below that number, the Associated Press reports, because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job.

29 mayors in U.S. cities say that more than 25 percent of people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it.

One half of a family’s income is consumed by housing and child-care costs. The New York Times reported on December 13 that federal and state subsidies provided to help low-income families with child care expenses have dried up or dwindled due to budget cuts and increased demand in many states.

8,000 families are on a waiting list for child care subsidies in Maryland. Pennsylvania’s list of children whose family needs the subsidy for care doubled to 10,000, and Arkansas’ quadrupled to 11,000. Two states – Arizona and Utah – no longer appropriate state funds for child care.

10.2 million working families are low income; the highest proportion in more than a decade. In 21 states – including most of the South – one third or more of all working families are low income, the Working Poor Families Project recently reported. 44 percent of working families with at least one minority parent were low-income in 2010, twice the proportion of white working families.

According to Census data, 28.3 percent of all custodial parents had incomes below poverty levels. Child support represented 62.6 percent of the average income for custodial parents below poverty who received support. In all, $35.1 billion in child support was owed in America in 2009 and 61 percent of that total was received.

57 percent of American children are poor or low-income. 38.2 percent of black children are poor, as are 32.3 percent of Hispanic children.

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