Eighty percent of Americans will struggle with joblessness, live on the edge of poverty, or rely on public programs for at least part of their lives, according to an analysis of survey data from the Associated Press. The report defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic unemployment, relying on government assistance such as food stamps, or making an income below 150 percent of the poverty line.
The risk of falling into poverty has increased in recent decades, particularly for people aged 35 to 55, the analysis finds. That age group had a 17 percent risk from 1969 to 1989, but it’s increased to 23 percent. For those between 45 and 55, the risk jumped from 11.8 to 17.7 percent. The report predicts that by 2030, nearly 85 percent of adults will experience periods of economic insecurity.
While nonwhite people have an incredibly high risk of experiencing economic insecurity — 90 percent — the biggest increases in the analysis were for white people. White people account for more than 40 percent of the poor, nearly double the number of black people. Overall, 15 percent of the population lives in poverty.
The U.S. falls significantly behind on child poverty in particular, ranking second-to-last out of 35 countries around the world. In fact, childhood poverty has been on the rise even as the economy begins to show signs of life and unemployment eases.
But even in the face of these numbers the country is pulling back on funds for programs that help ease poverty. Government spending on programs aimed at children has declined for three years in a row. Sequestration is expected to increase poverty and is already having an outsized impact on the poor. Low-income children have been kicked out of Head Start, families are losing access to Section 8 housing vouchers, and the destitute elderly are receiving fewer hot meals through Meals on Wheels. Many other aspects of sequestration will take a toll on programs that serve the poor.