A Statement from the Jesuit Conference of the United States: Response to U.S. Census Bureau Report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage
On September 12, 2012, the Census Bureau released its report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for the calendar year 2011. This new data reveals the percentage of Americans living under the poverty line, defined by the Census Bureau as household income under $23,000 for a family of four, has remained at 15% for the last two years, the highest in two decades.
Notably, as in 2010, over 46 million Americans continue to live in poverty, a record-breaking number that Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, labels a “scandal” and a “moral failure.”i This moral challenge is further highlighted by the fact that in 1970 15% of all American children lived in poverty while today, a full 22% of American children live under the poverty line. The Jesuit Conference calls attention with growing concern to the continued decline in median income across all sectors of the population except the top 5% of income earners. The numbers also indicate that modest job gains in the private sector were almost entirely offset by job losses in the public sector. These job losses and cuts in unemployment benefits drove many jobless Americans into poverty.
In light of these findings and the current economic crisis, the Jesuit Conference reiterates its stance that poverty reduction requires partnership between government and faith-communities to craft sufficient social safety-net infrastructure that cares for the most vulnerable sectors of our society. Our faith reminds us that during economic crises, burdens should be shared by all, not primarily by the poor. The Conference encourages our nation’s leaders to make the moral, courageous, and politically unpopular choice to protect the hungry, the poor, and the vulnerable.
A growth-oriented economy and a strong social safety-net are allies in the fight against poverty. The Jesuit Conference, in line with the Faithful Budget Campaign and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, understands that a just budget includes support for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, Social Security, and Unemployment Insurance.ii Every effort should be made to support job growth in both the public and private sectors. Finally, we affirm, with our Bishops, the belief that “the best way out of poverty is to work at a living wage.”iii
Census Report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Information Page on Poverty
Preamble to the Faithful Budget Document
Coalition on Human Needs Poverty Page
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Circle of Protection Statement