Dearing: Census Data on Poverty Tells a Story About Our Priorities

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 2.50.46 PMIn a recent piece that trended on the Huffington Post’s Politics Blog, BC Social Work Associate Professor Tiziana Dearing provided analysis on the US Census Bureau’s 2013 report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance, which was released last week. According to Dearing:

“The data offered a mix of good news and bad news. They also offered an underlying story about priorities. It turns out, we get results in the places we invest. The question is, are we investing in the right places?

The answer, of course, remains to be determined.

Here’s some of the good news: The child poverty rate dropped for the first time since 2000, and the poverty rate for the Hispanic population also decreased. Median household incomes for those 15-24 years of age and 65+ went up. These gains were, wrote Dearing, made largely “[t]hrough asset building, increasing job markets that demand high-skilled labor, and increasing stock market health by 40-60% over the same period that median household incomes dropped 10%.” In short, they were made thanks to programs based in smart, concerted, large-scale investment.

The problem is, there was also plenty of bad news to go around. On the whole, median household incomes overall have yet to return to 2001 levels, and perhaps even more disturbing, major disparities between races still exist.“These trends cannot be and are not explained by some kind of inherent difference in race,” Dearing wrote. “This is a systemic picture.”

The clues as to what needs to be done can be found in the Census cards; we need to focus resources to various American populations that are not being served. The Black poverty rate in 2013, for example, was 27.2%, compared to 9.6% for Non-Hispanic Whites. Median household incomes also don’t measure up, at $67,100 and $58,300 for Asians and Non-Hispanic Whites, but only $41,000 and $34,600 for Hispanics and Blacks.

So where can we begin to create change vis-à-vis inequality? By redefining our priorities, to start. “The latest Census Bureau statistics show us where we’ve been investing, and they offer a map of where we could have even greater impact going forward,” explained Dearing.

To learn more about Dearing’s specific recommendations for where to invest, read the entire Huffington Post blog. For updates on all of her research and teaching interests, including poverty and inequity and social justice in public policy, follow Dearing on twitter.







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