September 16, 2014, Washington, D.C. — The new Census numbers released today prove that the recovery, now in its fifth year, has failed to help people dig out of poverty. In 2013, 14.5 percent of Americans, or 45.3 million people, were poor; this is only 0.5 percent lower than the previous year. More astonishing is that 19.9 percent of children, or 14.7 million, live in poverty; this is just about 2 percentage points lower than in 2012.

“While it is encouraging that the poverty numbers are trending slightly lower for U.S. households, we have been immersed in a period of prolonged economic suffering for households at the bottom of the income scale,” says Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of the Center for Global Policy Solutions.

“It is especially notable that the poverty level for African American households remains unchanged and the highest of all racial and ethnic groups, at 27.2 percent, after a significant increase following the Great Recession. Racial income inequality is still high, with African American households making only about $35,000, which is 59 percent of the median income of white households. It is time for Congress to devise bi-partisan, targeted solutions that boost jobs, real wages and long-term educational investments for those living on the margins of the U.S. economy,” added Dr. Rockeymoore.

Here are a few policies that can help alleviate poverty at all ages:

1. Paycheck fairness

Persistent wage disparities between women and men, as well as racial disparities, pose serious challenges for the economic security of women and people of color. Research shows that women make 78 cents for every dollar paid to men and the gap is even wider for women of color. African American and Latina women make only 64 and 55 cents of men’s wages, respectively. African American men earn only 74 cents for every dollar white men earn. We need federal legislation that ensures pay equity standards.

2. Living wages

The main reason most people are in poverty is the fact that their wages are too low. Raising wages for poor working families would help them make ends meet and help the economic recovery. Recognizing that large-scale living wage reform may be difficult to enact in the short-term, we strongly support increasing the minimum wage as a first step.

3. Making the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit expansions permanent

While big corporations that employ a lot of low-wage workers would be able to pay higher wages, many small businesses might not. Which is where these two tax credits come to help. In 2012, they lifted 1.5 million people out of poverty and increased the economic security of 10 million others.

4. Increasing the EITC for childless workers and non-custodial parents

If the EITC for childless workers increased to $1,000, it would lift 500,000 people out of poverty and help out another 10 million. Most of our safety-net programs are geared towards families with children, but the current eligibility rules for this credit leave out a large group of people.

5. Universal pre-K education

In the short term, this would help the 11.2 percent of families in poverty hold jobs and therefore increase their income. The lack of childcare options is a major barrier to employment for poor parents but childcare subsidies are very scarce. In the long-term, this can help kids do better in school and break the poverty cycle.

6. Expand Social Security benefit levels

Social Security is the bedrock of retirement security for many low- and moderate-income families. Almost half of African American seniors depend on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. Low-wage earners receive a below-poverty benefit of $11,070. Social Security benefits should be increased to help those retirees who are economically insecure and do not have savings or other retirement income.


The Center for Global Policy Solutions is a social change nonprofit dedicated to making policy work for people and their environments.