Originally posted on the National Women’s Law Center blog.
Some members of Congress are putting public programs that are vital to women and families on the chopping block—despite evidence showing that these programs lift millions of Americans out of poverty each year. With poverty levels as high as they are, we can’t afford to let Congress cut these effective programs that provide assistance to so many low-income families.
More than 46 million people lived in poverty in 2014. Women and children were especially likely to be poor, with the data showing that more than one in seven women and more than one in five children lived in poverty last year. These data are shocking and show that too many families are struggling to make ends meet.
However, these Census data do not give a full picture of the effectiveness of public programs in lifting people out of poverty. The official poverty measure doesn’t count as income non-cash programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) and housing assistance, or refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that raised the incomes of millions of people enough to bring their families above the official poverty line.
New NWLC analysis reveals that five public programs alone kept millions of Americans out of poverty in 2014.
1. Social Security lifted more than 21.4 million people out of poverty in 2014:
- Nearly 14.5 million people 65 and older, including nearly 8.6 million older women;
- More than 5.8 million adults 18-64, including more than 3.1 million women; and
- More than 1.1 million children.
2. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which helps low- and moderate-income working families, lifted the incomes of more than 5.6 million people above the poverty line:
- More than 2.5 million adults 18 and older, including almost 1.6 million women; and
- Nearly 3.1 million children.
3. SNAP lifted the incomes of more than 3.6 million people above the poverty line:
- 388,000 people 65 and older, including nearly 276,000 women;
- More than 1.7 million adults 18-64, including almost 1.1 million women; and
- More than 1.5 million children.
4. Housing subsidies lifted the incomes of more than 2.8 million people above the poverty line:
- Nearly 2.0 million adults, including almost 1.4 million women 18 and older; and
- More than 867,000 children.
5. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) lifted almost 2.4 million people out of poverty:
- Nearly 387,000 people 65 and older, including more than 241,000 women;
- Almost 1.6 million adults 18-64, including more than 792,000 women; and
- More than 406,000 children.
While these programs are making a real difference in people’s lives, these data show there is still much more work to be done to ensure that families are economically secure. High poverty rates, especially for single mothers, women and children of color, elderly single women, and women with disabilities mean safety net programs are essential. Programs like SNAP, Social Security, and tax credits for low-income families all help lift women and their children out of poverty and must be protected. However, if Congress doesn’t act to end the sequester, many already under-funded programs will face further cuts. As Congress continues budget negotiations this Fall, legislators must keep in mind what the data confirm—investing in programs that help low-income families and children works. As we continue to work to ensure that everyone has a way out of poverty, these programs must be strengthened, not cut.