September 16th, 2010

16.6 percent of Alabamians lived in poverty last year, according to newly released 2009 US Census Data. This puts us ninth in nationwide rankings of poverty rates.

During that same time, 25.8 percent of children in Alabama lived in households below the poverty line.

The poverty threshold measures household income to determine who lives in poverty. In 2009, the poverty line was $22,050/year for a family of 4, or $10, 830 for an individual.

The numbers of people living in poverty have increased due to unemployment and the recession, says Kristina Scott, executive director of the Alabama Poverty Project. The numbers of the working poor have grown, while the middle class is shrinking.

This trend is evident in the statistics of those subsisting just above the poverty line.  23.9 percent of Alabamians live at or below 125 percent of poverty, and 30.6 percent of Alabamians live below 150 percent of poverty. This means that nearly 1 in 3 of our neighbors in 2009 made the equivalent of less than $33,075 for a household of four.

Single mothers have also struggled during the recession. A staggering 51.2 percent of single female-headed households with related children lived below the federal poverty line. 68.8 percent of single-female-headed households with children lived at only 150 percent of the poverty line during the same time.

Food banks and food assistance programs have reported a dramatic increase in first-time visitors and working families who seek aid, while applications for TANF and food stamps have increased dramatically during the recession.

At the same time, Alabama has weathered the recession better than some of our neighbors, and over the past 10 years we have made significant steps to reduce poverty.

What can you do?

Short term:

  • Support economic development efforts. Job loss is the number one factor in increasing poverty rates.
  • Advocate for policies that offer temporary assistance, as well as policies to create more jobs
  • Help struggling friends and neighbors through trying times. Strong relationships are key to rising out of poverty.
  • Donate to support local assistance programs providing immediate relief

Long term:

Posted by Robyn Hyden