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Hispanic poverty doubles in U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 15th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Latinos in America are facing more poverty than ever before. According to Census data, the Hispanic poverty rate is higher than previously anticipated. This is part of the overall trend which sees poverty on the rise in every demographic.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There are now 49.7 million poor in the U.S. today according to the Census Bureau. The higher numbers are due to two changes, the first the Great Recession and second, a change in the way the Bureau assesses poverty.

The Census Bureau used a supplemental poverty measure that factors in living expenses and assistance from taxpayer-funded programs.

When these numbers are added to the formula, the number of people in poverty rises. That means that while some households may enjoy income above the poverty line, their basic living expenses and medical expenses may push them back down into poverty. This makes sense when looking at costs for people who live in areas where the cost of living is much higher than average.

Some 16 percent of all Americans now live in poverty and a growing number of them are Hispanics.

Rural states tended to have higher numbers of people in poverty with Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arizona leading the nation.

Ultimately conditions are worsening for many despite the slow recovery in the economy. Although many Americans are returning to work, the jobs they're getting tend to be low-wage. This is leaving many to turn to more public assistance to make up the shortfall.

It may also be a reason why so many Hispanics supported Obama for a second term. Mitt Romney's poorly communicated messages about the poor, which are a growing class of the voting population, alienated many people.

Poverty is also affecting people 65 and older at a disproportional rate. Previous calculations suggested 8.7 percent of the elderly were poor, but the new formula shows that 15 percent are living in poverty.

Working age adults across the racial spectrum are experiencing a 15 percent poverty rate.

The new poverty measurement is the result of many years of criticism from economists who say the original formula is based on an antiquated model. The old formula for example assumed that a family would psend about one-third of its income of food. This is no longer the case, families spend about one seventh.

However, other costs have risen to consume the savings on food. Healthcare, for example, commonly pushes uninsured below the poverty level, sometimes regardless of income.

Lawmakers will use the new data to make better decisions about how to address poverty in the U.S.

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