The 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was five months ago, but it wasn’t until last week that the U.S. Census released data confirming little progress has been made. While the report does not address how various anti-poverty programs have helped individuals and families over the years, it does provide an analysis of the rate of poverty overall.
U.S. Census data found that poverty in Connecticut, which was around 9.6 percent in 1959, climbed to about 10.7 percent in 2013. That’s the same place is was in 2012. The biggest increase in poverty was between 2003 and 2009 when it jumped from 8.1 percent to 9.4 percent.
Connecticut Voices for Children pointed out that one in seven Connecticut children or 14.3 percent lived in poverty in 2013, a rate unchanged from 2012, but a substantial increase from a decade earlier when it was 10.8 percent.
Childhood poverty in major Connecticut cities ranged from 6.9 percent in Norwalk to 47.6 percent in Hartford. Wade Gibson, director the fiscal policy center at Connecticut Voices, put the poverty rate in context, comparing the poverty threshold of $23,834 for a family of four to the state median income of $67,098.
“Low income Connecticut families have been hardest hit by the recession,” Gibson said. “We can support these families, and improve outcomes for children, through continued support for programs such as the state Earned Income Tax Credit.”
The Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) and the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) pointed out that one-quarter of Connecticut residents live below twice the federal poverty level.
While poverty has grown since the recession, so has inequality. Between 2009 and 2013, inequality measured by the Gini index rose by 1.7 percent. That means the top 1 percent of earners in the United States saw their incomes grow 31.4 percent while 99 percent saw their incomes grow only 0.4 percent.
In Connecticut, residents are also paying more of their income in rent. An estimated 43.8 percent of tenants pay more than 35 percent of their income on rent. Nationally, 42.5 percent of renters pay more than 35 percent of their income on rent.
“These poverty estimates remind us that threat of falling into poverty is all too real, and should frame the bigger discussion of how Connecticut moves forward in the future,” Edith Karsky, executive director of Connecticut Association for Community Action, Inc., said.
She said the number of individuals walking through her agency’s doors seeking services has increased.
More than 365,800 people received services through one of the 11 Community Action Agencies in 2013 alone. That’s an increase of 2,273 individuals who were served by the agencies in 2012. The number of families served by the agencies between 2012 and 2013 rose by more than 20,000.
In 2013, more than 52,000 of the 365,800 people served by the agencies were employed. It’s unclear if their employment was full- or part-time.