Hunger and Homelessness: A Personal Education

Income and Poverty: A brief perspective on correlations

A quick note on time. Keeping up with weekly, even bi-weekly, articles with complete research, examination, and a focused conclusion is proving difficult. That said, to keep the habit and education going, I’m going to introduce some short perspectives which look into recent news or focused glimpse of a bigger topic to be expanded on later.

Last week the Census Bureau’s Income and Poverty report came out with largely positive highlights showing income increasing across the board for all Americans and a decrease in Poverty. While there is a wealth of data in the full report that deserves a complete look, a key takeaway is the decrease in the poverty rate quote, “The official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, down 1.2 percentage points from 14.8 percent in 2014.”

Drawing correlations between rates and services is difficult, one of the reasons I’m exploring these issues, but there are 2 services and a few numbers to quickly show in relation to this rate.

  1. The Philadelphia Housing Authority Section 8 Waiting List is closed and, at last opening, it received 54,000 applications where 2,500 vouchers become available each year. Estimates are that it will take at least 10 years to clear the list (citation needed on the timeline but more information available here.)
  2. Broad Street Ministry provides mailing addresses for 3,000 people currently and has served over 7,000 people since it’s creation less than 8 years ago. As a comparison, the last point in time count had Philadelphia’s homeless count at 6,112. Broad Street likely has more numbers around how many access it services but the mailing service provides a good “quick look.”
  3. Most directly, Philadelphia’s poverty and deep poverty rates have barely changed, especially in comparison to the national numbers. Poverty hovering around 26-28% and deep poverty around 12.2-12.9%. [2013 article, 2014 article, and 2015 report.]

Both the housing waitlist and the growing applications for Broad Street’s mail service are both correlated to Philadelphia’s poverty rate in some way. In turn, Philadelphia’s rate then correlates to the national rate. But how can we know track the changing need for these services? What has stopped our poverty rate from falling with the rest of the country?