Poverty Day 2012 Shows Rising Inequality

October 17, 2012 -- Partnership for Working Families

Income inequality in American cities is rising and economic hardship remains a prevalent concern, according to Partnership affiliates’ analysis of data from the results of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey released in September.  The American Community Survey provides poverty, income, and earnings data from the previous year.

The Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) reported that wages have failed to keep up with the rising cost of living in the San Diego region driving more working families into poverty.  The poverty rate in San Diego county rose to 15.1% in 2011 while household median income dropped by $2,337.  The data also revealed that the earnings in 10 of the county’s largest industries have decreased since 2007.  Corinne Wilson, the Research Director at CPI said, “Too many working people are living in poverty, and middle-class families are falling behind as their buying power shrinks. It’s time our local industries take responsibility for providing good wages that give their employees a decent quality of life.”

According to the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) the story in New York was all about rising inequality. The data showed that poverty increased slightly, Latino and Black households lost income, the rich got richer, and many working people continue to struggle to make ends meet. In addition, ALIGN’s report revealed a rise in working poverty in every borough.  Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN, explained the need for government policy that creates good jobs and reduces poverty.  “Poverty and income inequality increased yet again in New York City. Although we’ve added jobs, the new jobs that are being created tend to be lower-wage than those we lost during the Recession,” Ryan said. “Policies at all levels of government need to be focused on creating quality jobs that not only put people back to work, but also lift people out of poverty.”

Throughout our network, affiliates are pursuing local organizing and policy strategies to reverse these trends that will deliver family sustaining jobs and environmental justice to low-income communities and communities of color. 

Every fall Partnership affiliates release reports analyzing its results in their respective cities. In San Diego and New York affiliates released reports that point to an uneven economic recovery from the Great Recession resulting in rising poverty rates, declining family incomes, and increased inequality. Our researchers analyze and release reports on the same day that the data is released in an effort to receive media hits and frame the local story on the new data.  Our affiliates have become a vital resource to the reporters that cover this data each year, as they turn to them for an accurate analysis of the complicated data.  This year’s effort resulted in a dozen media hits, including television, radio, and newspaper

Each year this project reflects a tremendous amount of coordination among our affiliates.  Researchers from affiliate organizations connect with each other and with the support of Partnership staff and they have built an accurate and increasingly sophisticated command of the data.   Over the past several years affiliates have had a constant presence in local discussions about ACS data and continue to be leaders in focusing the discussion on the issues that impact working families the most.

However, the American Community Survey is under threat. 

In May, the House of Representatives voted to end the survey on the grounds that the surveys are invasive and are not cost effective.  However, the ACS is the most accurate and widely used source of data on the state of the economy and how it’s affecting Americans. The ACS data helps researchers understand demographics and economic trends, it helps businesses understand markets and where they should locate, and most importantly it informs how billions of dollars of government funds are allocated each year.  The Senate is currently considering the fate of ACS, but isn’t expected to vote until next year.  We will keep you posted as the time for action draws nearer.  The ACS is too important to our work and our understanding of our economy to let it disappear.