Poverty worse in Pa. than reported: study
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2009
One in five Pennsylvania households do not make enough money to meet basic needs even though many live above the federal poverty level, according to a study released Monday.
"It's not a lack of work effort that's a problem," Diana M. Pearce, director of the Center for Women's Welfare at the University of Washington, said during a telephone news conference. "It's the lack of adequate wages."
Pearce is author of "Overlooked and Undercounted: Struggling to Make Ends Meet in Pennsylvania," a study conducted in cooperation with the nonprofit PathWays PA for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
The report found that twice as many of the state's 3.4 million households are having a hard time making ends meet compared to data based on the federal standard for poverty. Just one in 10 households in the state lives in poverty, according to the federal standard.
That standard, however, calculates poverty based on a food budget. In contrast, PathWays PA examines needs such as the cost of food, housing, child care and health care in each county.
According to the study, Fayette County has the highest rate of households in distress in the state, with 35.4 percent. Allegheny County, with 20.3 percent, is just below the state average of 20.8 percent of households lacking enough money to meet basic needs.
The data come as no surprise to David Madison, administrator of Children & Youth Services in Fayette County. Between 2001 and 2006, he said, the rate of children under the age of 18 who live in poverty has increased from 24 percent to 33.5 percent.
"It's the working poor," he said.
Because of the recession, he said his office has seen a spike in the number of children who are abused or neglected. In the first three months of the year, his office has received 360 such reports; during the same period last year, 230.
The study shows about 85 percent of Pennsylvania households lacking enough money have at least one worker. In more than half of these households, there is at least one full-time worker.
"Here at Catholic Charities, we're certainly seeing an increase in people who are in need or seeking assistance," said Susan Rauscher, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
She said her agency saw a 40-percent increase in clients last November over the previous year. Catholic Charities averages 100 phone calls a day just in Allegheny County.
"We are attributing this to the economy," Rauscher said.
Robert Garraty, executive director of the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board, said he hopes the 22 local investment boards adopt the PathWays standard so that more laid-off workers are eligible for retraining.
The rate of households that lack enough money to make ends meet in local counties:
State : 20.8%
Source: PathWays PA
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.