For the fourth year in a row, the African American poverty rate more than doubled that of non-Hispanic white Americans, according to 2010 data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau. At 27.4 percent, the African American poverty rate also nearly doubled the overall U.S. poverty rate - 15.1 percent.
"The figures are both startling and very telling," said Rev. Derrick Boykin, associate for African American Leadership Outreach at Bread for the World. "That the African American poverty rate is twice as high as the poverty rate for whites reveals that African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately from social injustices."
African American children suffered from poverty at an even higher rate - 39.1 percent. Earler this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released annual food insecurity data revealing that 25.1 percent of African Americans were reported hungry in 2010. Widespread and prolonged unemployment, among other factors, contributed to these high figures. At the same time, real median household income for African Americans declined to $32,068 in 2010-less than two-thirds the real median income of White households.
Accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would show 5.4 million fewer people - including 3 million children - living in poverty. The figures would have been much higher without federally funded safety net programs which help keep poverty and food insecurity numbers down as families work to get on their feet. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction - or "Super Committee" - met recently to determine how to balance the federal budget and reduce the deficit. The committee must identify $1.5 trillion in federal deficit reductions, and funding is at risk for federal safety - net programs that helped many Americans offset the ongoing impacts of the recession and stay out of poverty last year.
"If it weren't for safety net programs like WIC, SNAP, and others, many more African American households would be suffering," added Boykin. "We urge the Super Committee to consider other alternatives to cutting programs that support vulnerable people as lawmakers work to reduce our nation's deficit."
Equally alarming, the Census Bureau report also revealed that the Hispanic poverty rate increased to 26.6 percent, up from 25.3 percent in 2009. The poverty rate for Hispanic children increased to 35 percent.