Imagine providing for a child alone on $7,600 annually or supporting yourself on $6,000 a year. That’s the financial reality for 20 million Americans who live in deep poverty, according to a new report by the Urban Institute.
Life is difficult for many living in deep poverty. They are more likely to have serious physical and mental-health problems, disabilities, and addiction, according to the report. Such individuals may also be homeless, have dropped out of high school, be functionally illiterate, or have criminal records.
Those living in deep poverty are diverse. Whites make up the largest share of people living in deep poverty: 41.6 percent. But blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented among the very poor, accounting for 23.2 and 26.3 percent respectively. Blacks and Hispanics are also more likely to live in deep poverty: 12.6 percent of blacks and 10.1 percent of Hispanics, compared with 4.3 percent of their white counterparts.
The deeply poor are more likely to live in rural or urban areas than suburbs. Nearly 65 percent of the very poor live in the South and the West.
The report paints a particularly grim picture for children. A third of those living in deep poverty are under 18 years old. Nearly 12 percent of young children are deeply poor — the highest rate of any age group. About 3 percent of children spend at least half of their childhoods living in deep poverty — which negatively affects their lives compared with children who experience poverty for just a year or two while growing up. More than two-fifths of the deeply poor live in single-parent families, most of which are headed by women.
Antipoverty efforts have helped millions, but too many remain poor and receive only limited assistance, the report found.
The report recommended improving the vast and complex system that fights poverty, including reducing redundant services among the 80-plus federal programs that provide needs-based assistance, expanding benefits to reach all those who are eligible, making sure the Affordable Care Act reaches its target population, helping people build assets through savings programs, and better managing programs that serve people with disabilities.