Social Solutions to Poverty:
America's Struggle to Build a Just Society
A book by Scott Myers-Lipton


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How Many Poor in the USA

In 2004, the nation's poverty threshold for a family of four with two children was $19,157 or less.

A family of two with no children is considered to live in poverty if they make $12,649 or less, and a single person sixty-five or older lives in poverty if she makes $9,060 or less.

Using this poverty measurement, 37 million people, or 13 percent of the population, currently live below the poverty line. If a more realistic formula for counting the poor were used, without the flaws of the current poverty threshold, the number of poor would rise to at least 50 million.

These figures put the United States in the dishonorable position of having the highest poverty rates in the industrialized world.

(from epilogue of Chapter 7)

(Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)


Who are the Poor?

  • children (35 percent of all Americans in poverty, or 13 million, are kids, making the United States first in child poverty in the industrialized world)

  • seniors (10 percent, or 4 million seniors, live in poverty

  • working poor (66 percent of all poor people work for some portion of the year)

  • whites (9 percent, or 16.9 million whites, live in poverty

  • blacks and Latinos (9 million for each group, but with poverty rates more than twice that of whites)

  • female-headed households (4 million, or 28 percent of all households with no husband present, live in poverty)

  • people living in suburban and rural settings (9 percent of the poor live in the suburbs, 14 percent in rural areas, and 14 percent in urban inner-city cores)

  • the severely poor (12.2 million, or 39 percent of the poor, are at or below one-half the poverty line)

    (from preface of Social Solutions to Poverty)

    (Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)

Poverty by Race/Ethnicity

When analyzed by race, the 2004 U.S. poverty rates are

9 percent for whites,
10 percent for Asian and Pacific Islanders,
22 percent for Latinos,
24 percent for American Indian and Alaska natives, and
25 percent for African Americans.

However, statistics can sometimes hide as much as they reveal.

By examining poverty rates from the perspective of ethnicity, one can gain a more accurate picture. For example, in the 2000 census, when Asian and Pacific Islanders are broken down by ethnicity, there is a wide range of poverty rates, varying from 6 percent for Filipinos to 38 percent for Hmong.  In the middle, there are other Asian groups, with Japanese at 10 percent, Chinese at 14 percent, Vietnamese at 16 percent, and Cambodians at 29 percent.

The same can be said for Latinos, whose poverty rates vary from 15 percent for Cubans to 26 percent for Puerto Ricans, with Central Americans (20 percent) and Mexicans (24 percent) in the middle. Some of the factors affecting these numbers are the education and social class levels of each group upon immigration or conquest, shade of skin color, citizenship status, English-language ability, and the length of time in the country.

(from epilogue of Chapter 7)

(Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)

Poverty by Age

If poverty levels were broken down by age, nearly all would agree that child poverty in the United States is an outrage.

Today, 18 percent (13 million) of American children under the age of eighteen live in poverty, and the number rises to 29 percent for Latino and 33 percent for African American kids.

These figures rank the United States number one in child poverty in the industrialized world.

At the same time, the overall poverty rate for seniors is 10 percent. This overall senior poverty rate is significantly lower than for the youth as a direct result of government-supported programs. However, the senior poverty rates for blacks and Latinos are 24 percent and 19 percent respectively.

When gender is combined with race, the economic condition continues to worsen, as the rate for elderly black women over seventy-five increases to 29 percent and for elderly Latinas to 27 percent. In comparison, the poverty rate for elderly white women is 12 percent.

(from epilogue of Chapter 7)

(Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)

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