The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a study regarding poverty nationwide and in Nebraska. What does this data tell us about how we are faring as a state? Five key points become clear:
1. Nebraska’s poverty levels are not improving: The number of people nationwide living in poverty remained essentially unchanged from a year ago, but slightly more Nebraskans are living in poverty.
2. Nebraska is seeing a long-term increase in poverty. In 2001, 10.3 percent of the Nebraska population had earnings below the poverty level. New data for 2011 show that 13.1 percent of Nebraskans earn less than the federal poverty threshold.
3. Children are in poverty at significant rates. 17.6 percent of children in Nebraska are in poverty. That is approximately one in six kids.
4. Nebraskans struggle in spite of work. Nebraska ranks second in the nation for people engaged in work, yet we see continued economic struggle. One explanation is that the Nebraska job market is made up of a significant number of service sector jobs, which tend to have lower wages – 35.5 percent of jobs in the state are in the service sector according to the new data.
5. Nebraskans need better opportunities and better jobs. Increasingly, jobs that pay a family supporting wage will require a post-secondary education – 66 percent of the jobs of the future will require a credential according to the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce. This underscores Nebraska Appleseed’s work to promote educational access and opportunity for low-income parents.
Further, our state must improve job quality. A new report from the Center on Law and Social Policy provides helpful guidance regarding the definition of job quality, and our state should pay attention to these ideas in our Labor and Economic Development systems.
Nebraska Appleseed will continue to promote better opportunities and better jobs for our people to “move the dial” on poverty. Stay tuned – a new report detailing our specific recommendations is coming soon!