Current census figures show that one in seven Americans is living below the poverty level, a rate that nears the record poverty levels of 1960. “The latest rise in the poverty rate illustrates how many more Americans are at risk of poverty and economic insecurity in this country,” says Mark R. Rank, PhD, poverty expert and the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
“With the continuing economic downturn, more and more Americans are struggling just to make ends meet,” Rank says. “It’s quite likely that these numbers will continue to rise over the next few years. Poverty is casting an ever widening net over the American population.”
Rank, the author of One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All, is widely recognized as one of the foremost experts and speakers in the country on issues of poverty, inequality and social justice. His research has demonstrated that a majority of Americans will experience poverty and will use a social safety net program at some point during their lives.
Below is a selection of Rank’s research on food stamps, economic disparities and economic insecurity in the United States.
Holidays and tables full of delicious food usually go hand in hand, but for nearly half of the children in the United States, this is not guaranteed. “49 percent of all U.S. children will be in a household that uses food stamps at some point during their childhood,” says Mark R. Rank, PhD, poverty expert at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. “Food stamp use is a clear sign of poverty and food insecurity, two of the most detrimental economic conditions affecting a child’s health.” Rank’s study, “Estimating the Risk of Food Stamp Use and Impoverishment During Childhood,” is published in an issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Video available.
“With President Obama now approaching six months in office, some have suggested that we have gone beyond race as a major dividing line in society. Yet nothing could be further from the truth,” says Mark R. Rank, PhD, professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. “One of the fundamental fault lines in American society continues to be the ongoing racial disparities in economic well-being.” Using 30 years of data, Rank examined three key factors in attaining economic well-being: owning a home and building equity; attaining affluence and avoiding poverty; and possessing enough assets to survive economic turmoil, or a “rainy day fund.” “The results indicate that within each area, the economic racial divide across the American life course is immense,” Rank says.
Although the focus of homeland security has been on reducing the threat of terrorism, the growing threat of poverty is rapidly undermining the nation’s economic vitality and has fueled rising disillusionment, says one of the nation’s leading scholars of poverty issues. “We need to wake up in America and realize that our homeland security is tied as much if not more to the fact that huge numbers of Americans are being left behind economically, and that as a result, the American Dream is quickly turning into an American nightmare,” says Mark R. Rank, PhD, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at Washington University in St. Louis. He offers a new platform for thinking about American poverty and some strategies to eradicate the problem.