DC Poverty Rate Rises to Nearly 19%

September 18, 2014

I was all set to write that the poverty rate for the District of Columbia dipped down last year, just as the official national rate had. But no, according to the just-released results of the American Community Survey.

The District’s poverty rate increased from 18.2% in 2012 to 18.9% in 2013,  Or so it seems. The increase is small enough increase to fall within the margin of error.*

Here’s more of what we’ve got, plus a few remarks here and there.

The Big Picture

The new poverty rate means that approximately 115,630 District residents lived on less than the very low applicable poverty threshold — just $23,624 for a two-parent, two-child family or about 26% of the family’s basic living costs in the D.C. area.

The rate is 2.5% higher than in 2007, just before the recession set in. It is also 3.1% higher than the 2013 national rate.

The deep poverty rate, i.e., the percent of residents living below half the applicable income threshold, was 10.3%. In other words, somewhat over 63,000 residents were devastatingly poor, especially when we consider the high costs of living in the District.

Young and Old

As in the past, the child poverty rate was much higher than the overall rate — 27.2%. This means that about 29,740 D.C. children were officially poor — well over half of them (16.2%) deeply so.

Both the total and the deep poverty rates for children were slightly higher than in 2012 — in both cases, by less than 1%. But they were considerably higher than in 2007, when the child poverty rate was 22.7% and the deep poverty rate for children 12%.

They were also both higher than the national rates. These, according to the ACS, were 22.2% and 9.9%.

Seniors had lower poverty and deep poverty rates — 17.5% and 4.5% respectively. These too, however, were higher than the nationwide rates. And a better poverty measure than the clunker the ACS uses would probably yield higher rates for seniors here in the District.

Non-Hispanic Whites v. Everybody Else

Race/ethnicity gaps in the District remain very wide. For example:

  • The black poverty rate was more than three and a half times greater than the rate for non-Hispanic whites — 28.7%, as compared to 7.7%.
  • For blacks, the deep poverty rate was 15.2%, while for non-Hispanic whites only 5.1%.
  • For Hispanics, the poverty rate was 12.6% and the deep poverty rate 5.6%. These are markedly lower than the 2012 rates, unlike the others here.
  • Rates for Asians were 18.7% and 13.2% respectively.

We see similar disparities in median household income, i.e., the midpoint between the highest and the lowest.

  • The median income for non-Hispanic white households was a very comfortable $118,402.
  • For black households, the median income was less than a third of that — $38,124.
  • Hispanic and Asian households fell in between, with a median incomes of $50,861 and $63,281 respectively.

The non-Hispanic white household median was a whole lot higher here than nationwide, by nearly $60,720.  The medians for black and Hispanic households were higher too, but the dollar differences were much smaller, especially the former. The median for Asian households was lower — a surprise, since it was considerably higher in 2012.

Work and Education

We’re told that work is the solution to poverty. The ACS figures support this, but only up to a point.

In 2013, 46.5% of poor residents between the ages of 16 and 64 didn’t work at all. An additional 25.7% worked less than full time or intermittently.

But that still leaves nearly 8,380 working-age residents who were employed full-time, year round and still not earning enough to lift themselves out of poverty — or at least, not them and dependent family members.

It’s a fair guess that these are mostly residents who don’t have the formal education credentials that living-wage jobs here, as elsewhere, increasingly demand. This is probably also the case for many of the part-time and some-time employed.

What we do know is that roughly 44.5% of residents 25-64 years old who had less than a high school education were employed during 2013 — and only 54.2% with no more than that.

Not surprisingly then, the poverty rate for those 25 years and older who had just a high school diploma or the equivalent was 27% last year — and for those with less, 39.3%. By contrast, the poverty rate for those with at least a four-year college degree was just 5.4%.

(Yes, I know these shifting age brackets are frustrating.)

Income Inequality

There’s obviously a lot of wealth in the District — and a lot of poverty. We see this in the figures I’ve cited, but also in the fact that the average household income — $102,822 — is so much greater than the median.

While 15.3% of households had incomes under $15,000, 12% had incomes of at least $200,000 — the highest bracket the Census Bureau reports.

There’s nothing new about this divide, except for the specific numbers. Nor is it unique to the District, though the disparity here seems unusually high. Nothing new about that either.

Most experts — and advocates as well — view the growing income inequality in this country as a bad thing in and of itself. They also see negatives specifically for people at the low end of the income scale. Many of the same arguments would apply to the District.

Nearly 10,860 families in the District had annual incomes, including cash benefits of less than $10,000 last year. Surely we can do better, though doing it won’t be simple.

* All the ACS tables include the margins of error, i.e., how much the raw numbers and percents could be too high or too low. In the interests of simplicity, I’m reporting both as given.

NOTE: I’ve revised several figures in this post because I’ve learned that I should use the ACS national figures for comparisons. I had originally used the Current Population Survey for these because that’s how I understood the Census Bureau advice.

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DC Poverty Rate Ticks Down (Maybe)

September 19, 2013

Hard on the Census Bureau’s Income, Poverty and Health Insurance report come results from the American Community Survey. And, as the headline indicates, the overall D.C. poverty rate seemingly dropped — but barely. So little, in fact, that the percent difference from 2011 is within the margin of error.*

More detail on that, plus some other gleanings from the survey.

Poverty Rates a Mixed Story

The poverty rate in the District apparently declined from 18.7% in 2011 to 18.2% in 2012. This left about 108,860 residents below the very low poverty thresholds — just $23,283 for a two-parent, two-child family. And, as I noted, the margin of error — 1.3% — casts doubt on real improvement.

Assuming a real drop, the poverty rate was still 1.8% higher than in 2007, just before the recession set in. It was also 3.2% higher than the national rate.**

The extreme poverty rate, i.e., the percent of residents living below 50% of the applicable threshold, effectively flat-lined at 10.4%. In other words, more than 62, 200 residents were devastatingly poor, especially when we consider the high costs of living in D.C.

As in the past, the child poverty rate was much higher than the overall rate. It was 26.5% last year. So nearly 28,590 D.C. children were officially poor. Well over half of them — 15.8% — lived in extreme poverty.

Both the plain vanilla and the extreme poverty rates for children were lower than in 2011 — the former by 3.8%. But they were both higher than in 2007, when the child poverty rate was 22.7% and the extreme poverty rate for children 12%.

They were also both higher than the national rates. These, as I earlier reported, were 21.8% and 9.7%.

Race/Ethnicity Gaps Still Very Large

Well, let’s just say One City we ain’t — not, at any rate, from the story the ACS figures tell. For example:

  • The black poverty rate was nearly three times the rate for non-Hispanic whites — 25.7%, as compared to 7.4%.
  • For blacks, the extreme poverty rate was 14.5%, while for non-Hispanic whites only 5.2%.
  • For Hispanics, the poverty rate was 22.1% and the extreme poverty rate 10.2%.

We see similar disparities in median household income.

  • The median income for non-Hispanic white households was a very comfortable $110,619.
  • For black households, the median income was barely more than a third of that — $39,139.
  • Hispanic households did better, on average, with a median income of $51,460.

The white, non-Hispanic household median was notably higher here than the nationwide, by $53,610. The medians for black and Hispanic households were also higher, though by much smaller amounts.

Some Clues to the Poverty Rates

Needless to say (I hope), unemployment and under-employment go far to explaining the persistently high poverty rates in the District.

In 2012, nearly half (48.1%) of poor residents between the ages of 16 and 64 didn’t work at all. An additional 25% worked less than full-time or intermittently.

But that leaves about 8,618 working-age residents who were employed full-time, year round and still not earning enough to lift them out of poverty — or at least, not them and dependent family members.

It’s a fair guess that these are mostly residents who don’t have the formal education credentials that living wage jobs here, as elsewhere, increasingly demand. This is probably also the case for some of the part-time and some-time employed.

What we do know is that the poverty rate for adults 25 years and older who had just a high school diploma or the equivalent was 22.8% last year — and for those with less, 34.5%.

By contrast, the poverty rate for those with at least a four-year college degree was just 5.1%.

What Could Narrow The Gaps?

Well, we won’t solve the unemployment problem overnight.

Even if Congress restored the federal jobs lost to sequestration (highly improbable), the local near-term unemployment rate would probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of 8%, judging from Gray administration estimates.

And it would probably be considerably higher for the least educated residents, if the trends the DC Fiscal Policy Institute reported for 2012 continue.

Getting more residents qualified for high-skill jobs would surely help. But we’d still have a very large low-wage sector — all those hotels, restaurants and other retail businesses.

The brouhaha over the Large Retailers Accountability Act, a.k.a the Walmart bill, has spun off into what seems to be serious consideration of raising the District’s minimum wage — and its tip credit wage too perhaps.

A full-time, year round minimum wage worker currently can’t earn enough to lift a three-person family over the poverty threshold — even if s/he never takes even a few hours of unpaid time off because of illness.

So a reasonably robust, comprehensive increase would be a step in the right direction. Granting tipped workers a right to some paid leave would help too.

Far from a total answer, but things the DC Council could do right now.

* Because the survey sample size for the District is relatively small, the margins of error, i.e., the amounts the reported percents could be too high or too low, are sometimes more than 1%. In the interests of simplicity, I’m reporting the percents as given.

** As the Census Bureau advises, I’m using the results of the Current Population Survey for the national figures. The national ACS figures are somewhat different.


Offical U.S. Poverty Stays Flat at 15%

September 17, 2013

I was all set to write about how the official U.S. poverty rate dipped down, as experts had predicted. But no. The Census Bureau reported this morning that the 2012 rate was statistically the same as in 2011 — 15%.

The economy has supposedly been in a recovery mode since June 2009, but the poverty rate hasn’t budged for three years now. It’s still 2.5% higher than in 2007, just before the recession set in — and in fact, a bit higher than the year the recession officially ended.

As I and many others have often cautioned, the official rate is based on an over-simple, outdated measure that understates the number of people who barely — if at all — have enough to live on.

It also, as some examples below indicate, fails to capture the anti-poverty impacts of many of our major safety net programs.

At this point, however, the results it produces are what we’ve got. And the measure is consistent from year to year. So trends are reasonably reliable.

Here then is some of what we learn from the poverty portion of the new report.

The Big Numbers

All told, nearly 46.5 million people were poor enough to fall below the Census Bureau’s very low poverty thresholds — about $18,500 for a parent and two children, for example.

Though the poverty rate is the same, it represents about 249,000 more people than in 2011.

Of these, 6.6% — 20.4 million — were so poor as to fall below 50% of the applicable threshold, i.e., to have lived in what’s commonly referred to as extreme poverty.

Both the rate and the raw number are the same as in 2011 — and not surprisingly, higher than in 2007, when somewhat under 15.6 million people were in extreme poverty.

Race-Ethnicity Gaps

Poverty rates for all major race-ethnicity groups also flat-lined. So the disparities remained very large. For example:

  • The black poverty rate was nearly three times the rate for white, non-Hispanics — 27.2%, as compared to 9.7%.
  • The poverty rate for Hispanics was 25.6%.
  • For Asians, the poverty rate was 11.7%.

The extreme poverty rates mirror these gaps — only 4.3% for white, non-Hispanics and a somewhat higher 5.7% for Asians, but 10.1% for Hispanics and 12.7% for blacks.

Married and Single

The disparity between poverty rates for married couples and families headed by a single person also remained extraordinarily large.

For families headed by a single woman, the rate was nearly five times times the rate for married couples — 30.9%, as compared to 6.3%.

The gap was smaller for families headed by a single man, but 14.6% of them were still officially poor.

Young and Old

As in the past, the child poverty rate, i.e., for people under 18, was considerably higher than the rate for the 65 and older crowd.

  • The child poverty rate was 21.8% — statistically the same as in 2011. Nearly 16.1 million children were officially poor — more than a third of all people in poverty.
  • More than 7.1 million children — 9.7% — lived in extreme poverty.
  • By contrast, the poverty rate for seniors was 9.1% and their extreme poverty rate just 2.7%.

We can chalk the age disparities up largely to the oft-maligned Social Security programs. Without them, the senior poverty rate would have been nearly four times greater.

However, the disparities are larger than they would be if the Census Bureau used a less crude measure, as we see in the results of last year’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.

The Bureau didn’t preview its SPM figures this year, but it did the equivalent with a few examples of what researchers can learn by using its table creator tool.

So we learn that counting the the Earned Income Tax Credit would reduce the number of poor children by 3.1 million. And if SNAP (the food stamp program) benefits were counted, 4 million fewer people would have qualified as poor.

I don’t suppose I need to say that these benefits are squarely in the House Republicans’ bull’s eye.

Policies to ensure that the economic benefits of the recovery reach the very large number of poor and near-poor working families in this country seem a distant dream.

But the new poverty figures ought to be a wake-up call.


New DC Poverty Figures … Surprising and Not

September 20, 2012

Figures the Census Bureau released two weeks ago indicated that the poverty rate in the District of Columbia had gone up — and by a lot.

Looking at the two-year average to compensate for the small sample size, the poverty rate hit 19.7% in 2010-11. This is 4.6% higher than the comparable rate for the U.S. as a whole — and higher than the rates for all but two states.

Now we’ve got results from the much more comprehensive American Community Survey. It uses samples large enough to make one-year figures for states — and even smaller jurisdictions — reasonably accurate. Also figures for specific age and race/ethnicity groups.

And, lo and behold, the overall poverty rate in the District didn’t rise after all. Here’s more detail on that, plus some other notable numbers.

Poverty and Severe Poverty Rates Halt Upward Climbs

The new D.C. poverty rate looks like a decline — down from from 19.2% in 2010 to 18.7% last year.

The Census Bureau, however, says that the change is not statistically significant.* Even a level rate is, of course, better news than what we read earlier.

As with the two-year averages, the rate in the District was higher than the nationwide ACS rate — by 2.8%. Rates in nine states were higher.

Similar news for the severe poverty rate, i.e., the percent of residents who lived below 50% of the applicable poverty threshold (just $23,021 for a family of four).

It dropped a bit — from 10.7% to 10.3%. Doubtful that this change is statistically significant.

Whether or no, it means that more than half of all D.C. residents counted as officially poor — 109,317 — were so very poor as to meet the severe poverty standard.

Unequivocally bad news for the District’s children. The poverty rate for the under-18 population — 30.3% — was virtually the same as in 2010. The new rate is 7.8% higher than the also disturbingly high national rate.

As with the District’s poor population generally, more than half of all poor D.C. children lived in severe poverty last year — 16.5%. That’s nearly 17,285 children in truly desperate circumstances.

Race/Ethnicity Gaps Still Very Large

We’ve got new figures, but no new story for the challenges to Mayor Gray’s One City vision. For example, in 2011:

  • The poverty rate for blacks was more than four times the rate for non-Hispanic whites — 27.8%, as compared to 6.8%.
  • The severe poverty rate for blacks was also much higher than the rate for non-Hispanic whites — 14.6%, as compared to 4.8%.
  • The poverty rate for Hispanics was 18.1% and the severe poverty rate 8%.

We see the same disparities in household income.

  • The median income for non-Hispanic white households was a very comfortable $107,679.
  • For black households, the median income was barely more than a third of that — $39,302.
  • Hispanic households did better, on average, with a median income of $59,607, but their median income was somewhat higher in 2010.

More Jobs Would Help, But …

Commenting on the earlier Census figures, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute noted that the jump in the poverty rate reflects mainly “stubbornly high unemployment” for “some groups of residents.”

Well, we had no jump. But the analysis still applies, with some qualifications.

Nearly half — 47.3% — of the District’s poor residents between the ages of 16 and 65 didn’t work at all last year. Another 25.5% worked less than full time and/or year round.

That leaves 27.2% of working-age residents who were employed full time, year round and nevertheless in poverty.

So it’s pretty obvious that more jobs would be helpful. But it’s also obvious that more jobs alone won’t cut it.

Education is commonly touted as the answer to persistently high poverty rates. I, among others, am  inclined to think that’s over-simple, though no doubt part of the answer — certainly here in the District.

According to the ACS, the poverty rate for adults 25 years and older who had just a high school diploma or the equivalent was 22.8% last year — and for those with less, a whopping 35.6%.

The poverty rate for those with at least a bachelor’s degree was just 4.2%. This is lower than the rate in 2010, while the rate for those with less than a high school diploma or GED is markedly higher.

We could surely narrow the income gaps in the District with better — and more equal — educational opportunities for residents without the advantages of their well-off peers.

Those opportunities unfortunately may diminish, due to the across-the-board federal spending cuts that Congress isn’t even close to averting.

We know that the District’s public education programs would take a significant hit — estimated, for only three major sources, at more than $9.1 million next year.

The cuts would also throw a lot of people out of work — estimated at upwards of two million nationwide. The District would lose its share — perhaps more than its share.

Lost jobs mean lost tax revenues that could be used to shore up our fraying safety net and for programs that reduce needs for the aid it should provide.

All sad — and wholly avoidable — prospects for our egregiously large poor population.

* As the text indicates, the severe poverty rate change I report here may not be statistically significant either. The Census Bureau’s brief doesn’t cover levels above and below the poverty thresholds, though the ACS tables do. They show error margins, but they’re not multi-year.


Census Poverty Rates Defy Predictions

September 12, 2012

Well, the crystal ball gazers blew it. The Census Bureau just reported that the poverty rate didn’t rise last year. The official 15% rate isn’t statistically different from the 2010 rate, it says.

This is surely good news. It nevertheless means that more than 46.2 million people were so poor as to fall below the Bureau’s very low poverty thresholds.

And well over 20.3 million — 6.6% — were so extremely poor as to fall below 50% of the applicable threshold. This is what’s commonly referred to as severe poverty.

What also hasn’t changed is the distribution of poverty across different age and race/ethnicity groups. For example, in 2011:

  • The child poverty rate was 21.9% — not statistically different from the rate in 2010.
  • The poverty rate for seniors was 8.7% — again, virtually the same as the 2010 rate.
  • The black poverty rate was nearly triple the poverty rate for whites — 27.6%, as compared to 9.8%.
  • The poverty rate for Hispanics was 25.3%.

Poverty rates among family types also replicate a familiar pattern. The percent of married couples who were officially poor was 6.2%, while the rate for single-woman households was five times higher — 31.2%.

Severe poverty rates were, of course, lower. But they mirror the same disparities. For example:

  • Nearly 1 in 10 of America’s children — 9.8% — lived in severe poverty last year.
  • The severe poverty rate for blacks was 12.8% and for Hispanics, 10.5%.
  • By contrast, severe poverty afflicted 4.4% of whites and only 2.3% of seniors of all racial/ethnic groups combined.

What we’re to make of all this I’m really not sure. We’ll undoubtedly have many analyses in days to come.

In the interim, we can ferret out of the Census report a couple of policy-relevant messages, based on examples it provides of what the statistically adept can find out by using its online tool.

One we might guess from the relatively low senior poverty rate. Without Social Security benefits, about five times as many elderly people would have been counted as poor.

This is surely a testimony to one of our oldest anti-poverty programs — and a warning of what could happen if some of the “reforms” that are being widely promoted became law.

An additional 2.3 million people were lifted above the poverty threshold by unemployment insurance benefits.

A more imminent danger here because more than 2 million jobless workers will lose these benefits in January if Congress doesn’t extend the only still operative federally-funded UI program.

Millions more will have, at most, 26 weeks of benefits — this at a time when 40% of those actively looking for work have been unemployed for longer.

So here’s a case where our federal policymakers could keep what are still really depressing poverty numbers from getting worse.

Whether they will or not depends on what voters decide in November.


DC Poverty Rate Hits 19.2 Percent

September 22, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, the Census Bureau released the results of its 2010 Current Population Survey.

Much attention here in the District of Columbia to the increase in our local poverty rate. Up to 19.9%, we were told. Trailing only Mississippi and Louisiana.

That poverty rate was based on a small sample, which means it could be off by quite a bit. The two-year average Census recommends yields a rate of 18.9%. The even more reliable three-year average is 18.1%.

But these rates, of course, don’t tell us whether poverty has been trending up or down. Nor anything about specific impacts.

So I waited for the results of the American Community Survey — partly because its one-year figures are reasonably reliable, but also because there are lots more state-level figures.

Now we’ve got them. Here’s some of what we learn, combined with my analyses based on figures from prior years.

Poverty Rate

In 2010, the District’s poverty rate did indeed go up, though not by quite as much as the one-year CPS figure indicates.

According to the ACS, the rate was 19.2% — 0.8% higher than in 2009 and 3.9% higher than for the nation as a whole.

The new rate means that about 109,620 District residents lived below the Census Bureau’s very low poverty thresholds. These vary by household size and composition. But, to give you a sense of how low they are, the average threshold of a family of four was $22,314.

Child Poverty Rate*

The already very high child poverty rate increased to 30.4%. This is 8.8% higher than the national rate and 7.7% higher than in 2007, just before the recession set in.

Translated into more human terms, the new rate means that about 30,500 D.C. children lived in poverty last year.

One tiny bright spot. The percent of children in deep poverty, i.e., in households with incomes below 50% of the poverty threshold, dropped by 2.6%.

It is still, however, a very high 16.2% — 6.6% higher than the national rate.

Race/Ethnicity Gaps

We see once again that poverty is not an equal opportunity condition here in the District or in the nation as a whole.

In 2010, 8.5% of non-Hispanic white District residents lived in poverty. The poverty rate for black residents was more than three times greater — 27.1%. The rate for Hispanic residents was nearly double the non-white Hispanic rate — 14.7%.

Deep poverty rates also varied — from 5.9% for non-Hispanic whites to 14% for blacks, with Hispanics in the middle at 8%. All three of these rates are greater than the 2009 rates. The increase for Hispanics — 4% — was markedly greater than for the other two groups.

Not surprisingly, we see similar gaps in median average household income. For non-Hispanic white households, the median was $99,220 — an eye-popping $45,052 more than the national median for these households.

The District’s black household median income was more than two and a half times lower than the median for all District households — $37,430, as compared to $60,903.

Hispanic households fared better, though not nearly so well as non-Hispanic white households. Their 2010 median income was $60,798.

In short, these are mostly grim figures — and a far cry from the “one city” Mayor Gray envisions.

To my mind, the child poverty rate rings the loudest alarm bells because we’ve got volumes of research showing that children who live in poverty have much higher risks of poor health, developmental delays, academic difficulties and other problems;

These, the research shows, pave the way for lifelong poverty — and thus another generation of children who are born with two strikes against them.

* All the child poverty figures are for individuals up to the age of 18.

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, the Coalition on Human Needs published a state-by-state list of poverty rates reflecting the new ACS report and its reports for the four years preceding.

According to the list, the District’s 2010 poverty rate is higher than any state’s. Alabama and Kentucky tie for second place, with rates of 19% all but two states’, Mississippi’s and New Mexico’s.

A separate CHN list provides state-by-state child poverty rates. The District’s rate is the second highest, topped by Mississippi’s 32.5%.


Census Bureau Reports Record Number Of Poor Americans

September 13, 2011

The Census Bureau opened its press briefing on the just-released 2010 income, poverty and health insurance data with a brief statement from the director. The yearly figures, he said, show “how day-to-day people are faring under changing economic conditions.”

By almost every measure, the answer is not well at all. Between 2009 and 2010:

  • The poverty rate rose from 14.3% to 15.1%. The new rate is the highest since 1993.
  • The number of people in poverty increased by 2.6 million. The total number now — 46.2 million — is the largest in the 52 years Census has been publishing such figures.
  • The percent of people in deep poverty, i.e., with incomes at or below 50% of the applicable poverty threshold,* increased to a record-high 6.7%.

As in the past, poverty rates were considerably higher in some population groups than others. For example:

  • The child poverty rate increased to 22% — up from 18% in 2007.
  • The number of children in poverty increased by 950,000 to a 16.4 million.
  • Nearly 7.4 million of these children (9.9%) were in deep poverty.
  • The poverty rate for blacks was well over two-and-a-half times the rate for non-Hispanic whites — 27.4% as compared to 9.9%.
  • The deep poverty rate for blacks was more than three times higher — 13.5% as compared to 4.3%.
  • The poverty rate for Hispanics was 26.6% and the deep poverty rate 10.9%.

A reporter asked the Census Bureau experts whether they could explain why the poverty rate rose. Was told that the Bureau produced statistics, not explanations. One factor suggested, however, was the growing number of people who’d had no — or virtually no — work during the entire year.

In 2010, 86.7 million people over the age of 16 worked less than one week — an increase of more than 3.4 million over 2009 and of more than 11.3 million over 2007. Not surprisingly, 23.9% of these potential workers lived below the poverty threshold.

Seems to me another arrow in the quiver of those of us who want Congress to pass the President’s jobs bill.

Yet the bill, as he himself says, “can’t solve all our nation’s woes.” He’s referring, as White House communications indicate, to the dwindling economic security of the middle class.

The economic woes of low-income Americans pre-date the recession too. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports, the poverty rate has been rising for most of this decade — in boom years as well as downturns.

We’ll need a comprehensive strategy — and a smart one — to do something about this. We’ll need a broad-based commitment. Things as they are, I’m not holding my breath.

* The Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds are more complex than the poverty guidelines used in determining eligibility for federal benefits programs. Using one of the Bureau’s weighted averages, we see that a family of four in deep poverty would have had an income of no more than $11,157 for the year.