Nebraska Poverty Rates Better than Nation but Nebraska Families with Children Still Struggle

In spite of poverty rates that show Nebraska faring better than the rest of the nation, data show thousands more Nebraskans are low-income, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009“.

One in ten Nebraskans (9.9%) faced poverty in 2009. This is equal to the rate of 9.9% in 2007 prior to the recession. 14.3% of Americans faced poverty nationwide.

However, this year, the report includes an analysis from an interagency working group that recognizes the value of developing an alternative poverty measure.  Such a measure would provide a deeper analysis of the conditions of poverty, rather than the current analysis which is based solely on a family’s cash income.

One alternative analysis of economic well being used is 200% of poverty, a level that is considered “low-income” and encapsulates a family’s ability to meet their basic needs.

This measure also better encapsulates the experiences of many Nebraska families who struggle in spite of hard work.  Our Midwestern work ethic is reflected in the significant number of Nebraskans that work hard and still fall short.

Using this measure, there are more Nebraska families and children in low-income households since before the recession in 2007.  22,000 more children and 13,000 more families are low income in 2009 compared to 2007.  35.5% of Nebraska children live in low-income households, and 22% of families are low-income.

Nebraska is fortunate that poverty rates in our state have not seen dramatic increases like the rest of the country.  However, it is time to acknowledge the realities faced by Nebraska families and that too many are struggling to meet their basic needs.

Demand for assistance to meet basic needs from charities has increased in recent years.  For example, the number of people seeking food assistance in the Lincoln/Lancaster County area increased 20.5% from 2008 to 2010 according to the “Lincoln/Lancaster County Food and Hunger Report 2010″.  Statewide, over the past year, Nebraska saw a 19.7% increase in participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps.)

At Nebraska Appleseed, it is our hope that as we address the current budget shortfall, protecting the well being of families is a clear a priority – particularly for those families on the edge of economic security – because Nebraska families and workers are central to our state’s economic well being and future success.

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