The New Battle on Poverty

Jan. 8 marked the 50th anniversary of the President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union address calling on the nation to launch an "unconditional war on poverty." This address began a national commitment to fighting poverty through targeted policy resulting in programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start Pell Grants, expansions to Social Security and nutrition programs like food stamps.

Every day, more Americans fall into poverty. As research supports, the consequences of poverty can be severe — homelessness, poor health, hunger, high-poverty neighborhoods plagued with high crime and low-performing schools, in a pool of shallow opportunities.

The U.S and its economic landscape have experienced great changes since 1964, higher levels of education to enter the middle-class, changing family structures and the increase of women in the job market and rising income inequality. Each of these factors has played a role in the increased the threat of poverty and consequently, 46.5 million Americans live in poverty and millions more continued to be threatened by economic disparity.

APA has long been active in advocating for research that examines the causes and impact of poverty, economic disparity and related issues such as socioeconomic status, classism, ageism, unintended pregnancy, environmental factors, ethnic strife and war, stereotypes, the stigma and feelings of shame associated with poverty, and mental and physical health problems, including depression, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, child abuse and elder abuse, as well as advocating for the broader dissemination of these research findings.

The Committee on Socioeconomic Status, in an effort to enrich the national discourse surrounding poverty the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, in the context of a rapidly changing demography and a growing global marketplace, the field of psychology has invaluable contributions to the understanding of Socioeconomic Status and the lives and well-being of the poor.

In the News
Fast Facts

As household earnings have declined, due to un/underemployment, more and more Americans find themselves falling into poverty. The consequences of poverty can be severe — homelessness, poor health, hunger, high-poverty neighborhoods, that suffer from high crime and low-performing schools.

  1. It is being projected that when the final numbers come out later this year that the U.S. poverty rate will be the highest that it has been in almost 50 years.

  2. Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be either "low income" or impoverished.

  3. Today, one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the poverty level.

  4. It is projected that about half of all American adults will spend at least some time living below the poverty line before they turn 65.

  5. Today, there are approximately 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

  6. Right now, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

  7. It is projected that half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years of age.

  8. The poverty rate for children living in the United States is 22 percent, although when the new numbers are released in the fall that number is expected to go even higher.

  9. Households that are led by a single mother have a 31.6 percent poverty rate.

  10. There are 314 counties in the United States where at least 30 percent of the children are facing food insecurity.

  11. More than 20 million U.S. children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry.

  12. Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

Psychology and Poverty

APA's Public Interest Directorate Psychology Benefits Society blog demonstrates how psychological science contributes to the greater good. The profession of psychology contributes evidence on human behavior, health and mental health, grounded in science, that contributes to the understanding of Socioeconomic Status and the lives and well-being of the poor.