Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Profile of Families with Inadequate Income in Pennsylvania

While the likelihood of experiencing inadequate income in Pennsylvania is concentrated among certain families by gender, race/ethnicity, education, and location, families with inadequate incomes are remarkably diverse.

In terms of race and ethnicity,
• 67% of households in Pennsylvania with inadequate income are White,
• 19% are Black,
• 10% are Latino, and
• 4% are Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of the households below the Standard in Pennsylvania:
• 25% are married-couple households with children,
• 24% are single-women households with children,
• 5% are single-male households with children, and
• the remaining 46% of the households below the Standard are family households without children and nonfamily households (also without children).

Among Pennsylvania householders in families with inadequate income,
• 14% lack a high school degree,
• 39% have a high school degree,
• 31% have some college or an Associate’s degree, and
• 16% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
About 79% of Pennsylvania households with inadequate income have at least one employed adult.

Over half (51%) of Pennsylvania households with insufficient income have one worker, and 27% have two or more workers.

Only 8% of households with inadequate income receive public cash assistance. However, nearly one in three (31%) households below the Standard participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), reflecting the broader experience of this program during the Great Recession.

About three out of four Pennsylvania households below the Standard spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Of Pennsylvania households below the Standard, more than one in four (27%) do not have health insurance coverage.


The Standard calculates the true cost of living facing American families, illuminating the economic “crunch” experienced by so many families today, with each Standard calculated over the last 15 years documenting the increasing real cost of living.

Unlike the federal poverty measure, the Standard is varied both geographically and by family composition, reflecting the higher cost needs of some families (especially child care for families with young children). The Self-Sufficiency Standard measures how much income a family of a certain composition in a given place needs to meet their basic needs—without public or private assistance.

The Standard calculates the costs of six basic needs plus taxes and tax credits. It assumes the full cost of each need, without help from public subsidies (e.g., public housing, Medicaid, or child care assistance) or private/informal assistance (e.g., unpaid babysitting by a relative or friend, food from food banks, or shared housing).

The resulting Self-Sufficiency Standards are basic needs, no-frills budgets created for all family types in each county in a given state. The Standard does not include retirement savings, education expenses, debt repayment, or emergencies.


The term “poverty” often refers to households living below the official Federal Poverty Level, which is viewed by most economists and policy makers as an insufficient method of measuring need in a community. Focusing on families living below the Federal Poverty Level results in a certain blindness to the very real economic distress being experienced by many Pennsylvanian households. That is, many are struggling in these difficult economic times with incomes inadequate to meet even their basic needs, yet because they are not officially designated as “poor” they are routinely being overlooked and undercounted. In this report, families that are “overlooked and undercounted” are those who live below the Self-Sufficiency Standard but above the Federal Poverty Level.

Read more about the Standard here.

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