US hunger & poverty facts
May 5, 2008
- From 1967 to 2003, average household income (adjusted dollars) grew from $7.589 to 9,996 for those in the bottom 20%, and grew from $83,758 to $147,078 for those in the top 20%.1
- In 2003, California had a poverty rate of 13.4%, compared to 9% in Virginia, 19.9% in Washington D.C., and 12.7% for the U.S. 1
- For those living in poverty, the poverty gap per family member (defined as the total dollar amount short of the poverty line) grew from $1,873 to $3,018 (adjusted dollars) between 1975-2003. 1
- From the years 1980-2000, average net income (adjusted dollars) for households with children grew by $876,300 for the top 1%, and grew by $2,000 for those in the bottom 20%. 1
- While the number of persons at poverty level declined from 13.4% to 12.5% from 1987-2003, the number of persons on Medicaid grew from 8.4% to 12.4%1
- Approximately 7.5 million workers (6% of the U.S. workforce) earn at or near the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.2
- If the federal minimum wage had maintained its 1968 peak value, it would be $8.69 an hour today. 2
- From 1956 to 1981, the minimum wage was approximately half of the average American workers wage; today it is about 30%. 2
- In the 1960s and 70s, a full-time worker earning minimum wage could support a family of three at the poverty level. 2
- Approximately 7.5 million workers (6% of the U.S. workforce) earn at or near the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. 4
- From 1956 to 1981, the minimum wage was approximately half of the average American workers wage; today it is about 30%. 4
- In the 1960s and 70s, a full-time worker earning minimum wage could support a family of three at the poverty level. 4
- Of those individuals directly affected by the most recent federal increase in the minimum wage, 70% were over the age of 19, and 35% of the income gains went to the poorest one-fifth of working households.2
- Currently, 13 states have laws mandating a state minimum wage that exceeds the federal level by at least one dollar and is near half the average wage of workers in that state. 2
- Housing costs continue to squeeze the budgets of low-income families. The typical household in poverty paid 64% of its income for housing in 2003, up from 61% in 1997. 3
- One of every 12 (8.3%) elderly Whites were poor in 1999, compared to 22.7% of elderly African-Americans and 20.4% of elderly Hispanics. 4
- A worker earning minimum wage would have to work 97 hours a week to pay the rent of an average two-bedroom apartment. 5
- Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2001, 26.4% of female-headed families were poor, while 13.1% of male-headed families and 4.9% of married couple’s households lived in poverty. In 2001, both black and Hispanic female-headed families had poverty rates exceeding 35%. 6
- The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that in 2004, requests for emergency food assistance increased an average of 13%. The study also found that 56% of those requesting emergency food assistance were employed. High housing costs, low-paying jobs, unemployment, and the economic downturn led the list of reasons contributing to the rise. 7
1. Just the Facts: Poverty in Los Angeles Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty, US Poverty, Income and Health Insurance Data, March 2003.
2. Institute on Assets and Social Policy, Minimum Wage: Creating an Asset Foundation.
3. Hunger, Crowding, and Other Hardships are Widespread among Families in Poverty, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, December 2004.
4. “Poverty in the United States: 1999, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, pg.60-210.
5. Institute for Children and Poverty, Homeless in America: A Children’s Story – Part One (New York, NY: 1999); Twombly, Out of Reach: The Growing Gap Between Housing Costs and Income of Poor People in the United States (Washington, DC: The National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2000).
6. Hunger and Homelessness Survey 2004, 1. U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty in the United States: 2001, P-60, no. 219: Table 1.
7. U.S. Conference of Mayors – Sodexho USA, December 2004.