WASHINGTON (January 7, 2003) -- Most Americans believe that between 1 and 5 million people live in poverty in the United States when the actual number is nearly 33 million, according to results of the national "Poverty Pulse" survey released today by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
The "Poverty Pulse" is commissioned annually by CCHD to determine public views on poverty. A total of 1,015 respondents were surveyed among the general adult population to highlight Americans' perceptions about what it means to be poor in the U.S. The public opinion poll is conducted as part of Poverty in America Awareness Month, which is observed in January.
This year's survey revealed that many Americans believe that it actually takes almost double the amount of money determined by the federal government to be the minimum income required to cover basic family needs. For example, almost half of the respondents (47%) believe that it takes almost $35,000 annually to adequately house, clothe and feed a family of four. However, the federal government's official poverty threshold for that family is $18,100.
"Poverty Pulse" results indicated a significant decline in the number of people who donated money to organizations helping the poor. The percent giving money dropped from 41 percent in 2001 to 32 percent in 2002. This decrease may possibly be attributed to people's concerns about the economy.
Despite national concern, the number of poor Americans still increased in 2001, which means that nearly one out of every eight people in the United States is affected by the cycle of poverty. This increase in the number of low-income people in the United States, to more than 11 percent, represents an additional 1.3 million people who are seriously affected by poverty; these statistics are based on recent figures by the U.S. Census Bureau.
"Poverty impacts all ages, family types and ethnicities. Currently, about half of all adults are also concerned that they will be poor at some point in their lives," said Father Robert Vitillo, executive director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. "Poverty in America Awareness Month serves as a public reminder that poor people, both children and adults, still need our help as they work hard to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children."
Among those polled, approximately 20 percent view "better education for children and adults" as the best way to permanently effectively address poverty in America.
About the Catholic Campaign for Human Development:
Established by the Catholic Bishops of the United States, 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 offered $260 million in support to 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 more information about Poverty in America Awareness Month, please visit www.povertyusa.org or call CCHD at (800) 946-4243.
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