In the midst of this economic meltdown, who suffers most?

According to CNN’s headlines, Home Depot is cutting 7,000 jobs and a 7-carat diamond ring falls off a Phoenix woman’s finger, right into the toilet.  While the rich are losing rings, the poor are losing jobs, and yes, there is a connection here: poverty is on the rise, and especially in our Hispanic neighborhoods.  This just serves as a metaphor for the arduous process the new administration has ahead in remedy of the economy.  Let’s talk about it: Poverty has been around for centuries. Growing up under privileged is one of the greatest harbingers of harm for the American people.  With the influx of many Hispanic immigrants coming from already infringed socio economic conditions from their country of origin, it is imperative that the new administration gets a strong hold of the economy in order to provide a better opportunity.

Poverty is the risk factor with the strongest effect on child health according to government health analysts who compared poverty, race and living in a single parent family.  Poverty is associated with a higher infant mortality death rate than being born to a single mother or to a mother who dropped out of school or smoked cigarettes during pregnancy.  Poverty is a greater risk factor for falling behind in school than race, region, having a teen parent or living in a one parent family and is a far more powerful correlate of IQ at the age of 5 than maternal education, ethnicity, and growing up in a female-headed family.

To further grasp the importance of this issue it is important to have some figures. These statistics about poverty were taken from the U.S. Census Bureau 2004. The poverty threshold for a family of four is $18, 810 per year. There are 12 million children who live in such families in this country. The numbers of people below the official poverty thresholds are numbered 35.9 million in 2003 (12.5%). For all children under 18, the poverty rate increased from 16.7% in 2002 to 17.6% in 2003. The number of children under 18 rose from 12.1 million to 12.9 million.  The Federal Poverty level, or the standard by which the United States government determines economic need, was developed 40 plus years ago. The Poverty level is the amount of money needed for most families to be economically self sufficient. Data collected in the 1950’s indicated that, on average, families spend 1/3 of their income on food. The original poverty level used the cost of the United State Department of Agriculture’s “economic food plan” and multiplied the cost by 3 to determine this level. Today, food comprises far less than 1/3 of a family’s expenses, while housing, transportation, and child care costs have grown disproportionately (The State of America’s Children 2001). Yet we still measure poverty by the original standard developed in the early 1960’s. Let’s do the math: $18,800 divided by 12 months= $1,551 per month to cover rent, transportation, food, health care, child care, clothing, utilities, entertainment, taxes, etc.

-Jules P.


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