Home > Spotlight Analysis > Census Shows Record-High Poverty Numbers, But Can Americans Agree on a Solution?
Census Shows Record-High Poverty Numbers, But Can Americans Agree on a Solution?
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux,

A record number of Americans are living below the poverty line, according to a Census Bureau report released on Tuesday, bringing the percentage of impoverished to 15.1%, the highest since 1993.  Analysis by Pew and the National Women’s Law Center also show that African Americans, Hispanics, and single mothers are all disproportionately affected.  Moreover, research from Public Religion Research Institute shows that finding the political will to implement policy to address inequality and poverty may be difficult: striking numbers of Americans don’t think the absence of equal opportunity is a problem, and a surprising number don’t think the gap between the rich and the poor is a problem at all.

Finding a solution may be difficult.  According to research by Public Religion Research Institute:

  • In PRRI’s 2010 American Values Survey, 71% of African Americans and 65% of Hispanics said that one of the big problems facing the United States was a lack of equal opportunity, compared to 49% of whites.
  • African American (58%) and Hispanic women (48%) were far more likely than white women (32%) to strongly favor raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 an hour.  White men (25%) were even less likely to express strong support for raising the minimum wage, compared to African American (65%) and Hispanic men (45%).
  • In a PRRI/RNS survey released in April, while 62% of respondents said that one of the biggest problems in the United States was that more and more wealth is held by just a few people, nearly a quarter – 24% – said that wealth inequality was not a problem at all.

This data shows that we not only have a serious poverty and inequality problem, but we also have serious disagreements, running along socioeconomic and racial lines, about how important these problems are. These differences show that finding a solution will be a difficult task.