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Hunger and Poverty Basics


    • Thirteen percent of people in the United States live in poverty.
    • More than 14 percent of households are hungry or at risk of hunger.
    • Nearly one in four children?16.7 million?live in households that struggle to put food on the table.
    • More than 14 million c hildren (age 18 and younger) live in poverty.
    • More than half of all Americans (51 percent) will live in poverty at some point before age 65
    • In 2008, the poverty threshold for a family of four (two adults, two children) was $21,834.

    Costs of Basic Needs

    • Nationwide, the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment was $821 per month, or $9,852 per year. At this cost, rent and utilities consume nearly half (48 percent) of the income of a family of four at the poverty line.
    • In many states, the average annual price of child care is higher than a year?s tuition at a four-year public college. A family with an infant and a 4-year-old face average annual costs of $15,831.
    • Low-income households spend a greater share of their income on food than middle-income families. Food accounts for nearly 17 percent of spending for households making less than $10,000 per year compared to the U.S. average of less than 13 percent.
    • Families who stretch their food budgets on low-cost foods frequently run out of food before the end of the month. More than 90 percent of SNAP (food stamp) benefits are used up by the third week of the month. Some families are able to seek emergency food assistance at food banks or soup kitchens. But when food resources are exhausted, families reduce portion sizes, skip meals, or go without food entirely.

    Taxes

    • The federal government spends roughly $760 billion a year through programs in the tax code. Only $89 billion of this $760 billion?about 12 percent?goes to programs directed at low-income individuals.
    • In 2005, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) lifted 5 million people, including 2.6 million children, above the poverty threshold.
    • In 2006, 23 million working families and individuals received the EITC.  For families with children, the average EITC refund  was $2,375.

    Poverty and Work

    • Eighty-three percent of low-income families have at least one working family member; 76 percent of single mothers who head households work.
    • In most areas, a family of four needs to earn twice the poverty threshold ($21,834) to provide children with basic necessities.
    • Nationally, more than 30 percent of children live in low-income working families (families who earn less than twice the poverty threshold).
    • A full-time worker at the minimum wage of $7.25/hour earns $14,500 per year.

    Sources:  U.S. Census Bureau; Transitioning In and Out of Poverty, Urban Institute, 2007; Bureau of Labor Statistics; SNAP Annual Program Data, FY 2008, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition Service; Parents and the High Price of Child Care, National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies, 2008; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; National Center for Children in Poverty; Economic Policy Institute.

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