WASHINGTON (January 11, 2002) -- Almost half of the nation's residents are more likely than ever before to help people living in poverty, according to a national poll released by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
The "Poverty Pulse" survey, commissioned by CCHD to determine attitudes toward poverty, showed that 48 percent of respondents said they are willing to do more now to assist the poor, especially in light of last year's events.
The results of the poll were announced by Father Robert Vitillo, executive director of CCHD, as part of Poverty in America Awareness Month, an annual observance designed to draw attention to the plight of the more than 31 million Americans who live in poverty.
Poverty touches all ethnicities and races, ages and family types, based on figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. But those figures also reveal that children are the hardest hit. During the year 2000, 30.9 percent of all African-American children, 28 percent of Hispanic children and 13 percent of white children lived in poverty. In addition, almost 40 percent of children under 18, living in female-headed households, lived below the poverty level - a rate that is about five times greater than their counterparts in married-couple families.
Father Vitillo stressed that although poverty rates in general have declined slightly over recent years, still one out of every six children lives in poverty. "Children under the age of 18 continue to suffer poverty rates higher than any other age group. And the child poverty rate for the U.S. continues to rank higher than most industrialized countries," he said. "December brings
outpourings of goodwill and concern for the poor, but in January the nation returns to its usual routine and the poor are still poor. By focusing on poverty in January, we hope to remind Americans early each year that poverty remains very much a part of American life."
In addition to the poll, CCHD has developed and is currently distributing a national public service campaign focusing on the challenges the nation's 12 million children living in poverty face every day. "By highlighting child poverty, we hope to reinforce the need to start early in life to provide enough food, shelter, medical attention and education to our nation's next generation," Father Vitillo said. "If we are to break the cycle of poverty permanently, we must provide long-term solutions, not just stopgap measures."
Among those polled, better education was seen as the best way to break the cycle of poverty. In fact, 35 percent of respondents mentioned better education for children and more educational opportunities for adults as ways to permanently solve the problem.
When asked who should be responsible for responding to the needs of the poor, 49 percent answered "the government" and 48 percent said that "everyone" is responsible.
The U.S. Census Bureau considers the poverty threshold for a family of four to be $17,650. Other studies have shown that Americans believe it takes closer to $35,000 annually to adequately house, clothe and feed a family of four.
Established by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is one of the largest private funders of self-help programs initiated and led by poor people in the U.S. Committed to the permanent elimination of poverty and injustice in America, CCHD has supported more than 4,000 programs nationwide that know no racial or religious boundaries - projects that help create jobs, improve neighborhoods and allow people to find a way out of poverty, not just for a day but for a lifetime.
NOTE: More information about Poverty in America Awareness Month can be found on CCHD's Web site--www.povertyusa.org or by calling CCHD at (800) 946-4343; or Barbara Stephenson 202-541-3364, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mary Yerrick, 301-320-6888, email@example.com