WASHINGTON (September 3, 2002) –- " The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) today released the results of its latest "Poverty Pulse" Survey " this one providing a unique glimpse into the attitudes of poor Americans about the state of poverty in this country.
Working directly with community-based, self-help organizations across the country that are initiated and led by low-income individuals, CCHD was able to get surveys into the hands of poor people " a group that is traditionally hard to reach through standard mail, phone or online survey methods.
The goal of the survey was to find out how the poor see poverty today and what solutions they feel would help them get out of poverty. The survey results reveal that for many, being poor is as much an emotional hardship as a lack of having material goods.
When asked, "What does it mean to be poor in the United States?" most survey respondents noted not having a home or adequate housing, and not enough money to meet their basic needs. However, many also described poverty in terms of how they feel. They cited being poor in the United States as depressing, degrading, being looked down on, ignored, or feeling hopeless, lonely and powerless.
According to Father Robert Vitillo, Executive Director of CCHD, poverty affects a significant number of people. "Over 34 million Americans live at the poverty level " and that crosses all races, religions and family types," he said. "In fact, one in six children in this country lives below the poverty level. These survey results will help us better understand what it means to be poor in America and identify ways that we as a society can really help," Father Vitillo stated.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 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.
This CCHD "Poverty Pulse" survey included 271 individuals who fell under the poverty threshold as defined by HHS, but also included an additional 128 who could be considered low-income (e.g., family of four with less than $27,340) for a total sample of 399. Surveys were offered in Spanish and English to get a representative view of the population.
The survey revealed that poverty and many of its related outcomes are the foremost concerns of poor Americans. When asked "What do you feel is the biggest problem facing society in the U.S. today?" respondents noted unemployment, discrimination and poverty as their three "top of mind" concerns. In addition, the related issues of lack of education, affordable housing, health care, crime and drug/alcohol addiction were mentioned often as concerns of the poor.
Most respondents (73%) cited problems with education as a key cause of poverty. Specific problems mentioned included lack of access to education, or not understanding its importance, as well as problems with the educational system itself. However, lack of a living wage or employment opportunities, unjust social policies, and racial/ethnic discrimination were also cited by many as causes for poverty.
When asked, "What is the best way to help permanently put an end to poverty?" the top three answers were: having more community-based organizations to help the poor directly (38%); providing government assistance to the poor (19%); and giving money to organizations that help the poor (17%).
Respondents were also asked if the events of September 11, 2001 had affected them and, if so, how. More than three-quarters of the poor Americans surveyed said they had experienced hardship since September 11. In addition to money problems, many lost their jobs or could not find work. Physical and mental health problems, racism and prejudice were mentioned as hardships too. In addition, one in ten had immigration problems and another one in ten had problems with the law.
In a follow-up question, those surveyed were asked if they felt people were more willing to help those living in poverty since September 11. Of the poor responding, only about a quarter said people were more willing to help, versus a third who said they felt people were less willing. Reasons suggested for this by some respondents included funding cuts because of the economy, and monies going to help those directly affected by September 11, rather than to everyone in need.
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. Established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CCHD works toward the elimination of poverty and injustice in America. Since its founding, 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.
For additional information contact Barbara Stephenson, 202-541-3364, firstname.lastname@example.org, Michelle Agee, 410-626-0805, email@example.com
More information about poverty in America can be found at www.povertyusa.org or by calling CCHD at (800) 946-4243.