This week the US Census Bureau released new data about income, poverty and health insurance in the US. Some of the highlights are no surprise:
- The median income declined by 2.3% from 2009.
- The poverty rate went from 14.3% in 2009 to 15.1% in 2010.
- 46.2 million people are in poverty
- A family of four will find themselves in poverty with an annual income below $22,314.
The startling fact is that NC ranks #10. Normally, we would be proud and brag about such a ranking. However, in this situation, NC ranks #10 out of all 50 states in terms of our poverty. Something that should cause all of us to hang our head in shame. According to the data North Carolina’s median income is one of the lowest in the country at $43,275, our poverty rate is 16.1% (tied for the 9th highest), and the unemployment rate is at 10.1% (9th highest).
The data has not been extrapolated yet for the Triangle region. It will be available in December. However, in December of 2010, the poverty rate for the Triangle in 2009 was 15.2%. Over 180,000 people lived in poverty in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake County. The challenges associated with living in poverty have not changed, there are few jobs, it affects a community’s overall quality of life , and people die.
One of the best commentaries I read was the recent statement by Bernie Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont. In it he talks about the death sentence created by poverty’s inequities. The life expectancy for low income women has declined, people in the highest income group live longer than those in the lowest income group, and college graduates live longer than those who have not finished high school.
There are times when I find this data overwhelming. At other times, it motivates me to do something. The good news is that I’m able to get up every day and say, I’m doing something about this. I am so fortunate at United Way to help make investments into programs that are designed to help those who are experiencing poverty. The 82 partner agencies that the community supports through the United Way campaign work hard to meet the growing problems of poverty. I’m glad they are doing this crucial work.
I have to say, I’m not very proud of the fact that we rank #10. That might be offset if I knew what our ranking was when it comes to solving the probems of poverty, but at this point, I don’t. That is a question I hope to have an answer for soon.