Poverty: A Look at Massachusetts

Each year, the United States Department of Health and Human Services uses Census data to update the Federal Poverty Guidelines used to determine eligibility for many social safety net services.  (2015 Federal Poverty Guidelines http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm)

There are roughly 322 million people in the United States and 45.3 million of those people (14.5%) live below the federal poverty line and half those live in deep poverty, or below 50% of the Federal Poverty Line. More than half of those live in female headed households. 14.7 million children or 1 in 6 children live below the Federal Poverty Line and 1 in 10 senior citizens.

Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in specific expenses like childcare and healthcare and supports like the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps, poverty rises to 15.4% or nearly 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty.

In Massachusetts, 11.9% of the population lives below the Federal Poverty Line with 5.5% living in deep poverty and 8.8% of senior citizens living below the poverty line. However, a greater percentage of children live in poverty in Massachusetts (16.3%) as compared to the United States as a whole. 15.3% of Massachusetts’ population live under 125% of the poverty line, in near poverty. (Under 130% of the Federal Poverty Line qualifies for SNAP benefits of food stamps and 185% qualifies for nutritional assistance for Women, Infants, and Children)

The Poverty Line in Massachusetts

11.3% of all families

17.8% of all families with children

30.6% of households headed by women

40% of households headed by women with children

46.9% of households headed by women with young children

Nearly half the female head of households below the poverty line work. 15% receive Social Security Income.

1 in 6 children in Massachusetts live below the poverty line.

1 in 4 children under the age of 5 live below the poverty line.

Boston and Springfield Public Schools have so many families living in poverty that students receive universal free breakfast and lunch under the USDA and the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

 

The Poverty Line – Selected Counties in Massachusetts

Berkshire County

9% of all households; 15.7% of female headed households

With children: 25.8% of all households; 37.2% of households with children

5.3% of senior citizen households; 5.8% of households headed by women over 65

 

Bristol County

11.3% of all households; 29.7% of female headed households

            With children: 17.9% of all households; 37.9% of female headed households

7.5% of senior citizen households; 17.6% of households headed by women over 65

Hampden County

14.9% of all households; 25.3% of female headed households

            With children: 34.1% of households; 47% of female headed households

4.1% of senior citizen households; 5.7% of households headed by women over 65

Norfolk County

4.4% of all households; 6.6% of female headed households

            With children: 14.7% of all households; 24.1 % of female headed households

1.5% of senior citizen households; 1.8% of households headed be women over 65

Plymouth County

11.6% of all households; 18.5% of female headed households

            With children: 30.9% of all households; 41.0% of female headed households

5.5% of senior citizen households; 12.1% of households headed by women over 65

Worcester County

9.7% of all households; 15.9% of female headed households

            With children: 28.7% of all households; 39% of female headed households

3.5% of senior citizen households; 5.9% of households headed by over 65

Because the Federal Poverty Line does not include regional differences in cost of living, trying to make ends meet at the poverty line in Massachusetts with its high cost of living is harder.

To find out if you could survive with financial resources just above the poverty line (FPL: $980), try www.playspent.org.

To find out what you need to make ends meet in Massachusetts by town, visit Crittenton Women’s Union’s Economic Independence Calculator at http://www.liveworkthrive.org/research_and_tools/economic_independence_calculator

Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin