Staff chat posts feature articles and news that the C1 team discusses as part of our weekly all-staff meeting. We’d love to hear your thoughts too — hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!
For this week’s Staff Chat, we are looking at the state of poverty in Boston in response to a report released in November:
- — Poverty Rate in Mass. highest since 1960
- — From Poverty to Opportunity: The Challenge of Building a Great Society
- — Poverty and Inequality in Massachusetts Today
The report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center shows that the poverty rate in Massachusetts is at 12%, making it one of the highest in the United States. Massachusetts also leads the nation in income disparity between the lowest and highest levels of wage earners.
The Boston Globe, which broke the story, highlighted some troubling statistics, including:
- — After an initial decrease in poverty after President Lyndon Johnson declared “War on Poverty” with an army of Great Society social programs, the poverty rate slowly rose again and the current poverty rate is the same as it was in 1960
- — Though several Great Society programs (food stamps/SNAP, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid) are still going strong, in the past twenty years Massachusetts has slashed almost $3 billion in funding for affordable housing initiatives, early childhood learning programs, and job training for young people
- — Wage stagnation is a chief cause of the plateauing poverty rate; had income growth reflected productivity growth, the lowest wage earners would be earning at least $10,000 more per year than they are now. The highest 1% of wage earners would collectively earn almost $1 million less
- — Looking solely at cash income, poverty in Massachusetts is at 27%; adjusted according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes into account other forms of income and public assistance, the poverty rate drops to 12-14%
- — Adjusted for inflation, the average working class individual earns $5000 less than his 1960s counterpart
The MBPC report included this infographic to explain how today’s worker would fare had wages increased at the same rate as productivity:
Both the report and the Globe stories point out that many of the Great Society programs are still in place and still yielding results. What sticks out in their assessments of poverty today is the idea that the best way to close the poverty gap in Massachusetts is to strengthen community bonds that will prepare future generations to succeed in all aspects of life – economically and creatively – by developing technical skills through job-based training, achieving more in school, and developing close partnerships with employers and community organizations that can provide support throughout their lives. Continue reading