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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 25, 2008: Factors in poverty

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Star-Telegram

Why are some people poor? Experts suggest the following factors:

Lack of education

The higher the education, the more money people tend to earn, according to the U.S. Census August 2007 American Community Survey Report. In 2006, men with a bachelor’s degree earned a median income of $55,446, while those with a high school diploma earned $31,715 and those without a high school diploma earned $22,151, the report states. During the same year, women with a bachelor’s degree earned a median income of $36,875, while those with a high school diploma earned $20,650 and those without a diploma earned $13,255, according to the report.

Economic slowdowns

About 4 out of 10 U.S. workers often or always live paycheck-to-paycheck, according to CareerBuilder.com. If they lose their jobs, they can quickly fall into poverty. In Tarrant County, the poverty rate dropped from 13.7 percent in 1993 to 10.1 percent in 2000 as the area economy improved. It had climbed back up to 13.4 percent in 2005 as the economy worsened.

Medical costs

The inability to pay medical bills accounts for about half of all bankruptcy filings nationwide, according to a Harvard University study. In 2006, Americans without health insurance increased to 15.8 percent, edging up from 15.3 percent in 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Higher-income Americans are more likely to have insurance.

Race

In 2006, black households had the lowest median income, $32,372, compared with $38,747 for Hispanics, $52,375 for Anglos and $63,642 for Asians, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. “On average, minorities are more likely than whites to have low levels of education, lower levels of employment, lower wages and have chronic health problems – all characteristics associated with poverty rates,” John Iceland writes in his book Poverty in America.

Gender

In 2006, men earned a median salary of $42,210 while women earned $32,649, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. And women are far more likely to be single parents, with the responsibility of caring for and supporting children, according to Poverty in America. In 2005, 36.2 percent of single mothers lived in poverty, compared with 17.6 percent for single fathers and 6.5 percent for married couples with children, according to the report The Feminization of Poverty.

Sources: Poverty in America by John Iceland; U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey Reports August 2007; Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, Harvard University; CareerBuilder.com; U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics; The Feminization of Poverty by the YWCA and the J. McDonald Williams Institute

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