What Census Statistics on Poverty Aren't Telling Us

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By Jessica Atcheson
UUSC Blog, Oct 7 2010

As you may have heard by now, a new Census report was released announcing that 3.8 million more people officially live in poverty now in America than in 2008, an increase that brings the total number up to 43.6 million — or 1 in 7 people.

A 14.3 percent poverty rate wasn't the only distressing part of the report, though. Besides a record number of people without health insurance and stalled median household incomes, what's worrying is what the statistics aren't telling us.

The U.S. government considers an annual income of $21,756 to be the poverty line — for a family of four! A wage that puts you just over the poverty line is not a real living wage. There are thousands of people living above the poverty line who are struggling just to make ends barely meet — and they are nowhere to be found in these statistics.

That's why advancing the living-wage movement is one of UUSC's priorities. The minimum wage should cover a family's basic needs — something that the current rate of $7.25 per hour doesn't come close to achieving. By partnering with Let Justice Roll — especially on efforts to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 and to raise the wages of tipped workers, in addition to other local and state campaigns — UUSC is supporting people organizing for a more just minimum wage across the United States.

As Let Justice Roll puts it, "A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it." And that goes for what many consider to be poverty — not just what the government statistics tell us poverty is.