Forty years ago or so, the U. S. government created a poverty index related to household food costs--the measure originated with the Department of Agriculture. This index became the basis for the "federal poverty guidelines."
Indexing poverty to food costs resulted in the income levels being set artificially low as a standard measure of what constitutes poverty. Nevertheless, the index stuck and we continue to work with it as a benchmark.
The 2006 federal poverty guidelines define a family as living in poverty if. . .
. . .the family has 2 members and the annual household income is no more than $13,200 ($1,100 monthly) or $6.35 an hour.
. . .the family has 3 members and the annual household income is no more than $16,600 ($1,383 monthly) or $7.98 an hour.
. . .the family has 4 members and the annual household income is no more than $20,000 ($1,667 monthly) or $9.62 an hour.
In the United States today 35.9 million people (12.5% of the population) live in poverty--3.6 million reside in Texas (16.2% of the population).
Of these, 12.9 million are children between the ages of birth and 17 or 17.6% of this age grouping--in Texas it is 22.8% or 1.4 million children.
Among children from birth to five-years-old, 4 million live at or below the poverty line nationally (20.3% of this age group--in Texas it is 26.9%).
Texas is not a friendly place for the poor, especially the children. In 2003, the percentage of children living in poverty rose for the fourth consecutive year and the poverty rate among children outpaced the national average by 27%!
Nearly one in 4 children in Texas lives in poverty. Tragically, 1 in 10 children in Texas lives in extreme poverty (family income below 50% of the Federal Poverty Line). In one of the neighborhoods here in Dallas where we work every day, the average family income is something under $10,000 annually.
The impact of childhood poverty on little boys and little girls, just like my grandchildren, can be lifelong. Texans need to be awakened to the harsh reality facing millions of our neighbors and their families.
What should churches be doing?
What should we demand that our public, elected officials do now?
What will you do to make a difference?
It is far past time for waiting patiently. The questions and the pain behind them demand an answer. . .now!
[Source: "The State of Texas Children 2006: Texas KIDS COUNT Annual Data Book," published by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Visit them at www.cppp.org.]