Friday, April 13, 2012

Who are the poor in Ward 6?

What do we mean by poverty? Originally, a neighbor overheard some ANC reps saying that there were no poor people in their ANC. In a previous post, I talked about how the low wages for many jobs created the working poor. Someone made the following comment:
There are also other reasons why people have incomes of less than $30,000, but we would not commonly call them "poor." My neighbors on Cap Hill include college students living in groups, students whose parents have purchased a home for them while they are in school, young adults living with their parents, retired people many of whom own their homes outright. My "block" close to Eastern Market has 17 homes: 3 occupied by retirees, 1 group home, 2 or 3 occupied by students -- owned by parents. That is about 33% with low income, but not people considered poor.
Are students who are working for free on internships poor? Are retired people no longer making an income poor? Who are the poor in Ward 6? I'll start with an easy first snapshot of those who receive means-tested public assistance -- assistance for those with low incomes, as opposed to social security, which is open to any income level. Ward 6 residents do receive public assistance because they have low or no income. Therefore, we could say that these residents are poor. Here are the three means-tested programs I examined:
  1. Supplemental Security Income: designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income. Provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
  2. Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): "In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must be a resident of the District of Columbia, either pregnant or responsible for a child under 19 years of age, a US national, citizen, legal alien, or permanent resident, have low or very low income, and be either under-employed (working for very low wages), unemployed, or about to become unemployed."
  3. Food Stamps/SNAP benefits: based on income. If a household with 3 people makes less than $22,884, then they qualify for these benefits. Those working full-time in the following jobs qualify for these benefits:
  • Barber/Salon Shampooers $19,390
  • Fast-Food Cook $19,660
  • Dishwasher $20,600
  • Cashiers $21,780
  • Food Preparation Workers $22,510
From the Census' 2006-2010 American Community Survey, here are the number of households on public assistance in the following census tracts in Ward 6 (see map below):

Wealthiest by Income: Census Tract 67
Total Number of Households (HH)

HH w/Supplemental Security Income
HH w/Cash Public Assistance Income
HH w/Food Stamp/SNAP benefits 68

Poorest by Income: Census Tract 71
Total Number of Households (HH)

HH w/Supplemental Security Income
HH w/Cash Public Assistance Income
HH w/Food Stamp/SNAP benefits 339

Avoided 1960s SW Urban Renewal: Census Tract 64
Total Number of Households (HH)

HH w/Supplemental Security Income
HH w/Cash Public Assistance Income
HH w/Food Stamp/SNAP benefits 293

These census tracts have very poor residents, as well as more wealthy residents. However, not all poor people qualify for public assistance, so onward to other measures of poverty!