There's still work to be done.
The new poverty numbers have been released by the U.S. Census Bureau (the Columbus Dispatch has a great article summarizing the details for central Ohio) and it’s mostly good news. Comparing 2016 numbers to 2015, nationally, poverty is down for almost everyone, the troubling exception being adults 65 and older. The disparity in poverty lessened, by a tiny margin; where the white poverty rate moved from 11.6% to 11%, the poverty rate for African Americans dropped from 24.1% to 22%, for Hispanics from 21.4% to 19.4%. These are great numbers and we should certainly celebrate a move in the right direction.
And. It’s not enough. The disparity between racial and ethnic groups is astonishing. And these numbers don’t even begin to address low income households; those families living above 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but still below 200% of FPL, and certainly not earning a self-sustaining income. So let’s be cautiously optimistic, and use these numbers to bolster our resolve, to reinvigorate our work.
Let’s be creative and innovative and joyous in our efforts to think differently about how to build opportunities for everyone. Yesterday I heard Steve Ives from the YMCA of Central Ohio mention a initiative he was involved in when he lived in Portland, Maine, that provided $1,000 for every 5th grader’s family so that student could attend summer camp. What a transformative experience for those kids, giving them experiences that help them dream to achieve. I’ve heard Mike Davis from Junior Achievement of Central Ohio talk about his vision that every child learn about the endless possibilities for owning their own economic success, not just the ones that involve becoming famous and rich. Whether it’s supporting these ideas or others, jump in and be a part of making next year’s numbers look even better.