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The good folks at Think Progress published a story yesterday entitled “Your assumptions about welfare recipients are wrong.” It’s a myth-buster worth checking out as we contemplate the realities that confront so many of our fellow Americans — especially during the holiday season.

“The stereotype of the low-income people enrolled in government programs is that they spend the money on frivolities and are unwise with their budgets. But the data proves otherwise. Families who receive public benefits such as housing assistance, welfare cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security Income (SSI) for the disabled or low-income elderly have much smaller spending budgets than those who don’t receive benefits and spend a bigger portion on the basics such as food, housing, and transportation, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On average, families who are enrolled in these public programs spend less than half of what families who aren’t enrolled spend. They also put a bigger percentage of that money toward food, housing, and transportation, devoting 77 percent of their budgets to these necessities compared to about 65 percent for other families. Meanwhile, they spend less, on average, on some things thought to be luxuries like eating out and entertainment. A family that doesn’t get public benefits spends 4.5 percent of its budget on ‘food away from home,’ while a two-parent family who gets benefits spends 4 percent of its budget on eating out and a single parent spends 3.6 percent. ‘Food away from home spending was higher in both dollar amount and percent of total spending among families not receiving assistance,’ the report notes. Families who don’t need assistance also spend more on entertainment in both dollar and percentage terms and devote more of their budgets to ‘other’ expenses.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

Poverty remains elevated in North Carolina and the nation as we continue to deal with the painfully slow recovery. As I explained back in September, new Census Bureau data on poverty and income confirm that the economic recovery is continuing to bypass middle- and lower-income families. The little economic growth that is taking place is also sidestepping certain demographic groups, including children, communities of color, and women. A snapshot of these disparities, as well as how poverty varies across the state, is captured in a new infographic released today by the NC Budget and Tax CenterRead More

Poverty continues to impact 1 in 5 North Carolinians, according to 2012 Census Bureau Data released last week. The extent of poverty would be far greater without the safety net and work supports, however. This post is part of a blog series that will explain how the new poverty data demonstrates the important role public programs play and the need for continued support. See our posts on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Social Security, and Unemployment Insurance.

Despite economic growth from 2011 to 2012, North Carolina saw no meaningful improvement in either poverty rates or household incomes over the same period. New US Census data shows that safety-net programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), blunted the extent of poverty’s reach across the United States. If not for the federal EITC, an additional 5.5 million Americans—including 2.9 million children—would have lived in poverty last year.

The EITC goes to families that work but struggle to get by on low wages. It helps them pay for basic necessities, reduces child poverty more than any other program, and improves kids’ chances of success as adults. The tax credit’s anti-poverty effect is not yet available for North Carolina or other states but we do know that it lifted approximately 293,400 North Carolinians—half of whom were children—out of poverty during the 2009-2011 period.

We also know that state EITCs build on the success at the federal credit. Yet, state lawmakers enacted a tax plan that allows North Carolina’s EITC to expire at the end of 2013. Read More

Poverty continues to impact 1 in 5 North Carolinians, according to 2012 Census Bureau Data released last week. The extent of poverty would be far greater without the safety net and work supports, however. This post is part of a blog series that will explain how the new poverty data demonstrates the important role public programs play and the need for continued support.

Widespread poverty and stagnant living standards have become the status quo in North Carolina, according to the Budget and Tax Center’s analysis of Census data released last week. 2012 marked yet another year of the official economic recovery whereby the gains of economic growth passed over low- and moderate-income North Carolinians. High rates of hardship are persisting because of the state’s ongoing job shortage and the rapid acceleration of low-wage work that fails to provide a pathway to the middle class.

There is some good news in the Census data, however. The poverty rate would have been much worse if public policies weren’t in place to provide a necessary safety net. Read More

North Carolina has dropped one place since last year to rank 35th in the nation according to an annual KIDS COUNT data report about the overall well-being of children in the United States. This data report determines and ranks states on the basis of performance in sixteen level indicators across four domains; economic well-being, family and community, health, and education.

North Carolina’s drop to the 35th spot largely results from the state’s lackluster performance in improving its economic well-being. Currently, North Carolina is ranked 38th in the nation for economic well-being, three spots below last year’s ranking. This data report breaks down economic well-being into four categories, each of which North Carolina failed to show any progress. The KIDS COUNT State Profile for North Carolina reports that twenty-six percent of children are impoverished and thirty-four percent of parents lack secure employment in this state alone. Accordingly, in North Carolina, the amount of children living in households with high housing burden costs has seen a four percent increase since 2005, and ten percent of teens are currently not working or in school.

In comparison to last year’s report, Read More