The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net. The AP surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks, and academics, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1% in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7%. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest since 1965.
Demographers also say:
- Poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5% for many years. Several predicted that peak poverty levels—15% to 16%—will last at least until 2014, due to expiring unemployment benefits, a jobless rate persistently above 6% and weak wage growth.
- Suburban poverty, already at a record level of 11.8%, will increase again in 2011.
- Part-time or underemployed workers, who saw a record 15% poverty in 2010, will rise to a new high.
- Poverty among people 65 and older will remain at historically low levels, buoyed by Social Security cash payments.
- Child poverty will increase from its 22% level in 2010.
- The poorest poor, defined as those at 50% or less of the poverty level, will remain near its peak level of 6.7%.