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Posted January 24, 2005

Statistics that make us take poverty more seriously

In a Catholic Campaign for Human Development [CCHD] commissioned survey, conducted among 1,004 adult Americans Nov. 19-23 by Market Research Bureau of Washington, 97 percent of respondents said it is very important (77 percent) or somewhat important (20 percent) to decrease or eliminate poverty in the United States.

Nearly all of the respondents also said all children should have health care (96 percent) and that it is important for the federal government to make sure all low-income people have health coverage (91 percent).

The margin of error for the poverty pulse survey was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

According to the latest census figures, 35.9 million Americans live below the poverty line, an increase of 1.3 million over last year.

The poverty guidelines established by the federal government state that a family of four making less than $18,850 lives in poverty. For a family of three, the figure is $15,670; for a family of two it is $12,490.

But two-thirds of those responding to the CCHD-sponsored survey said a family of four would be living in poverty with an annual income under $35,000. And the number of respondents who said a family of four would need more than $75,000 to cover their basic needs more than doubled over the past year from 6 percent to 13 percent.

In a separate survey of low-income people themselves, the respondents said an annual income of $27,500 would keep a family of four out of poverty. The margin of error for that survey was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Each group also was asked to list the top five problems facing Americans. The low-income respondents named:

Unemployment/low wages

Health care


Discrimination and poverty

The general public cited:

The economy





"What is particularly striking to me is that the general public does not even seem to connect its concerns about the economy with the ongoing drain and burden placed by the long-term cycle of poverty on the overall economic and social well-being of our nation," Father Vitillo, Director of CCHD said.

In a statement read by Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles noted that all the Americans living in poverty were in a single state, "it would be our largest -- bigger than the state of California."

"Poverty is not a condition people either desire or bring upon themselves," he added. "More often than not, it is a cruel, self-perpetuating cycle that steals hope from the lives of children and families while diminishing our society as a whole.

"Despite today's stark reminder that the state of poverty continues to grow," the cardinal said, "we can draw hope from the work of poor and low-income people across this country who are breaking the cycle of poverty for this generation and those to come."