Great Recession increased low-wage families

Even though we are slowly pulling out of the Great Recession, many families will be continue to suffer in it’s wake. A recent report talks about how the Great Recession has increased the number of low-income Americans by 1.7 million. That’s about the same size as the entire population of the Virginia Beach metro area.

“The share of working families earning less than double the official poverty threshold – $43,512 for a family of four – increased from 28 to 30 percent between 2007 and 2009”

With a rise in low-income families, what does this mean for poverty in America and Virginia? Will the American dream be deferred for an additional 1.7 million Americans and their children for another generation?

President Obama has presided over large increases in education and job-training funding since taking office. But those efforts have been overwhelmed by the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

And now, with a spate of fiscal conservatives poised to enter Congress and with policymakers more tightly focused on the nation’s huge budget deficit, the prospects of maintaining past spending levels on programs that help enable social mobility are dimming.

Many states also are reeling, causing them to raise college tuitions and, in some cases, consider cuts in public school funding.

In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell personally called out VCU for it’s 24% tuition hike during his recent budget presentation on Friday Dec 17th. Gov. McDonnell is rightfully concerned about the impact of the Great Recession on low-income Virginians. However, we should be focused on what we can do to protect and promote opportunity for low-income Virginians over the long term.

This report shows how the workers suffering the most are those with the least education:

The downturn has also been particularly difficult for workers with the least education, a trend that was evident even when the economy was better. Unemployment for high school dropouts peaked at 15 percent during the downturn, compared with 4 percent among workers with at least a bachelor’s degree.

How do we make sure that educational opportunities for low-income Virginians are maximized? Mixed-income developments. Making sure that low-income Virginians can attend the same schools as middle & high-income Virginians is the most effective educational reform tool.

As we crawl out of the Great Recession, we must make sure to promote opportunity for low-income Virginians by making affordable housing and mixed-income development a top priority.

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