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Without the Safety Net, Millions More Would Have Lived in Poverty in 2013

I have good news and bad news. I’m the type who always wants to hear the bad news first, so here it is: newly released Census Bureau data show that more than 45 million Americans lived in poverty last year. Read more »

Whose Poverty Rate Increased Last Year? Older Women's

As we reported, today’s poverty numbers show no improvement in the poverty rate for women overall. Hispanic women saw their poverty rate decline; African

 American women did not.  We haven’t finished crunching all the numbers.  But we know that at least one group of women saw an increase in poverty: women 65 and older.

The poverty rate for women 65 and older increased to 11.6 percent in 2013 from 11.0 in 2012, a statistically significant change. The poverty rate for men 65 and older in 2013 was 6.8 percent, statistically unchanged from 2012.  More than two-thirds (68.1 percent) of the elderly poor are women.

Five Reasons to Celebrate Social Security's 79th Birthday

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. As he said at the time, he was just laying the “cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.” Since then, generations of Americans have contributed to, strengthened, and improved our Social Security system—and for generations, it has protected workers and their families against the loss of income due to retirement, disability, or death. Through wars and recessions, Social Security insurance payments have been made on time and in full; last month, over 58 million Americans of all ages relied on Social Security.

Each of those 58 million people has a story to tell about what Social Security means to them and their families—but 58 million is too many reasons to list. So here are five reasons to celebrate today: Read more »

The President’s To Do List

I believe that To Do lists are an art form. There’s nothing more beautiful than a list of things you need to get done with every single item crossed off of it. Crossing off an action item gives me such a sense of accomplishment that I usually put things I’ve already done on the list, just to cross them off.

In a major speech yesterday about economic mobility, President Obama shared one of his To Do lists with us. The items on this list are much more important than the ones on my usual lists. These items are the legislative and administrative priorities that will help fix the growing problem of income inequality in the United States.

Before sharing his “roadmap” with us, the President started with a reality check. He was blunt about the fact that our economy has become profoundly unequal and families have become more insecure. He drove home the point that we are living in a country that once promised success for those who worked hard, but is now faced with rapidly rising inequality and decreasing upward mobility in a way that “challenges the essence of who we are as a people.” Each fall NWLC analyzes the poverty data put out by the Census bureau, and those sobering statistics illustrate exactly what the President is talking about. I couldn’t agree more with the President when he said that these trends are bad for families, bad for the economy, bad for social cohesion, and bad for democracy. Read more »

Poverty Among Seniors Is Far Worse than First Appears

A disturbing finding from today’s Census Bureau report on poverty using the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM):  the rates of poverty and extreme poverty among seniors are dramatically higher than under the official poverty measure. Specifically:

  • The poverty rate for people 65 and older under the SPM was over 60 percent higher under the SPM than under the official measure: 14.8 percent of seniors were considered poor under the SPM in 2012, compared to 9.1 percent under the official measure.
  • The extreme poverty rate (income less than 50 percent of the poverty threshold) for people 65 and older was nearly 75 percent higher under the SPM than under the official poverty measure (4.7 percent under the SPM v. 2.7 percent for the official measure).

In contrast, the rates of poverty and extreme poverty among children under 18 were lower under the SPM than under the official poverty measure:

  •  The poverty rate for children under 18 was 18 percent under the supplemental measure, compared to 22.3 percent under the official measure.
  • The extreme poverty rate for children dropped by more than half, to 4.7 percent under the SPM compared to 10.3 percent under the official measure.
Read more »

5 Public Programs That Lift Millions of Women and Children Out of Poverty

In 2012, Social Security kept 12.1 million women and 1 million children out of poverty.

This new statistic can be calculated based on data released today by the Census Bureau. Also part of the release of new data is a report on the supplemental poverty measure (SPM) which takes into account the impact of public programs, as well as medical out-of-pocket and other expenses on families’ economic security. For more about poverty measurement, see our FAQ.

This past September, the Census Bureau released the official poverty numbers for 2012, which showed that women’s poverty remained historically high, with 17.8 million women (14.5 percent) in poverty. Our report detailed what the numbers looked like and the trends over time. But what we didn’t get to see in that data was how many people’s incomes were pulled above the poverty line by specific public programs, some of which are counted in the official poverty measure and some of which aren’t. Today, we can delve deeper into how many people were lifted out of poverty by these programs and who they were. Read more »

Who Thinks a 1.5 Percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment Is Too Much?

The Social Security Administration today announced the cost-of-living adjustment for 2014: beginning in January 2014, benefits will increase by 1.5 percent.  For the typical single elderly woman with a benefit of $1,100 per month, this represents an increase of just $16.50 per month. This year’s COLA adjustment is even lower than last year’s 1.7 percent increase.

And yet, as budget negotiations resume today, some lawmakers still are considering proposals to reduce the deficit by cutting Social Security benefits. Specifically, they would adopt a different—and lower—measure of inflation that would reduce annual COLAs: the chained Consumer Price Index (chained CPI). As we’ve explained before, the chained CPI is especially dangerous for women, because the benefit cut from a reduced COLA gets deeper every year you live, women tend to live longer than men, and their benefits are lower to start with.

Last Week, Chained CPI—This Week, Raising the Retirement Age and More

It’s August in Washington, DC and Congress is out of town—but the House Ways and Means Committee wants to know what you think about additional ways to cut Social Security benefits.

Through last week, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) invited comments on adopting the chained CPI: a proposal that would reduce annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and cut the value of benefits more and more every year. Seven thousand of you joined us to tell the Committee that the chained CPI is especially harmful to women. Now the Committee is asking for comments by August 29 on other proposed benefit cuts, including raising the retirement age and changing the benefit formula to reduce benefits.

Raising the retirement age is really just another way to cut benefits. It reduces benefits no matter when an individual claims benefits. Increasing the retirement age from 67 (the current retirement age for people born in 1960 or later) to 69 would reduce benefits by about 13 percent, whether an individual claims benefits at 65, 67, 69—or even 70. Read more »

Why the Chained CPI is Harmful to the Most Vulnerable Americans

This week the U.S. House Committee on the Budget held a hearing on the progress of the War on Poverty. While poverty remains painfully high as the United States struggles to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression, social insurance and safety net programs are lifting millions out of poverty. And the nation’s most effective anti-poverty program is Social Security. Without Social Security, a staggering 25 million more Americans – and half of women 65 and older would fall below the poverty line.

Despite the critical importance of Social Security to Americans’ economic security, lawmakers are considering cutting Social Security benefits by switching to the chained consumer price index (CPI) to calculate the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and other programs. But the chained CPI would actually lower the cost-of-living adjustments and the cuts would get deeper every yearRead more »

Seven Reasons Why the Senate’s Labor-HHS-Education Funding Bill Has Us Cheering

The Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies just approved a funding plan for those agencies in Fiscal Year 2014. The full Committee will consider the bill tomorrow.

During the Subcommittee’s consideration of the bill, Senators voiced their appreciation of the bipartisan effort and conversations leading up to the bill. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Subcommittee, expressed her commitment to get the bill on the Senate floor saying “If we move this bill, America and the people who live in it will be in a better place.”  Senator Mikulski explained that the appropriations bill laid the groundwork for expanding opportunity in America through empowering students, investing in education and getting people to work in the 21st century.

We agree. The bill not only rejects the painful cuts from sequestration—it provides additional funding in several key areas, especially early childhood education. Here are seven reasons we were dancing in our offices when we saw the details of the Senate Subcommittee’s FY 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill:

  1. Early Childhood Education: A $1.43 billion increase for Head Start, including Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships, plus a $171 million increase for existing Head Start and Early Head Start programs; a $176 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grants, including $110 million for new quality improvement grants and $66 million for child care assistance as well as $750 million for Preschool Development Grants.
  2. Implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA): $5.2 billion to the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services to implement the Affordable Care Act, an increase from $3.9 billion in FY 2013.  The ACA will help nearly 30 million Americans, including nearly 15 million women, to access high-quality, affordable health insurance.
  3. Mental Health: $40 million for Project AWARE State grants, which will focus on making schools safer and connecting young people with mental health services, and $40 million in new funding to address shortages in the behavioral health workforce.