Week 11: Realities of Poverty Today
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50 weeks of Action Archive


Week 11: Realities of Poverty Today

Week eleven 
Realities of Poverty Today 
In the years since Dr. King's death, the face of American poverty has
changed. The rates of poverty in suburban America have been  rapidly growing.  From 2000 - 2015, the suburbs accounted for nearly half of the national poverty increase in the United States. Suburban communities across the country  like Detroit (87 percent), Chicago (84 percent), and Cleveland (63 percent) have seen dramatic increases in its poor populations. Suburban areas like Austin (129 percent), Atlanta (126 percent), and Las Vegas (139 percent) have seen their poor populations more than double. Brookings Institute Fellow and author of the book Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, Elizabeth Kneebone, testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee, subcommittee on Human Resources in February about the  changing geography of America's poor.( 1)  Kneebone testified that confronting American poverty requires a complex systematic approach, but it is critical for communities, politicians, foundations and others to reconsider what poverty looks like today.  
  •  43.1 million people in America (13.5 percent of the population) were poor in 2015.
  • Majority of poor families (2/3) are working families in both urban and suburban communities.
  • 36% of suburban poor own their homes
  • Non - Hispanic whites are 44% of the poor population in the suburbs.
  • 70% of poor whites in the nation's largest metro area live in the suburbs compared to 52% of poor Asians, 47% of poor Hispanics, 41% of poor African Americans.
  • Suburban poor living in distressed neighborhoods has grown by 188% since 2000.
What this means is we have to truly consider the plight of our neighbor.  The statistics mean that our neighbors, people living in our community, are more than likely struggling with the realities of poverty.
(1) Elizabeth Kneebone, "The Changing Geography of US Poverty" The Brookings          Institute.  https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/the-changing-geography-of-us-poverty/ 
Working Towards Ending Poverty 
  1. As you reconsider the face of poverty today, look at what you can do within your community. Consider volunteering with Meals on Wheels to get to know your community better. Donate clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army in your neighborhood. Consider donating a gently worn suit to nonprofits that help people prepare for job interviews.
  2. Read Elizabeth Kneebone's full testimony on America's changing geography of poverty.
  3. Share with us on our 50 Weeks of Action Facebook Group page the initiatives your community is using to confront poverty.
Poverty and Its Challenges
Last time we looked at poverty, we said that people living in poverty may find it hard to meet their basic needs. It may be difficult for them to have enough food, clean water, clothes and shelter. People who have no home may sleep in a homeless shelter or they may make or find a place to sleep, in order to survive. 
(For Elementary Students) 
Watch and listen to a read aloud of 
The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern.



(For Middle and High School Students) 
Go to your local library and check out 
It's Your World: Get Inform ed, Get Inspired & Get Going! by Chelsea Clinton.   Read chapter one: $ 1.25 A Day Poverty Around the World   or  learn more about the b ook online.
To find out more about how you can help people
experiencing poverty,  click below .
Are you aware of any organizations that cater to poor communities in your city or nationally that others can become involved in to combat poverty rates? What are you doing or have done to diffuse poverty around you or globally? Let us hear from you. Share your story with us to encourage others to get involved and do the same.  
# MLK50