The image of poor individuals living large on government handouts is a powerful one that implicitly characterizes the poor as undeserving of assistance. The narrative of the Cadillac-driving “welfare queen” is perhaps the most well-known trope, but more recent articles on consumption trends have dismissed concerns about rising income inequality by focusing on what New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall terms “the hidden prosperity of the poor.”
The central thesis of this line of argument is perhaps best summarized by George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux, whom Edsall quotes:
“[O]ur larger, more central, and most important point is that middle-class Americans are today far better off economically than they were 30 or 40 years ago, regardless of how their well-being today compares to that of rich Americans.”
This line of argumentation defines one of the primary characteristics of improved economic well-being as having access to better and more affordable goods and services than previous generations. As Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur write in the Wall Street Journal:
“[T]he access of low-income Americans—those earning less than $20,000 in real 2009 dollars—to devices that are part of the “good life” has increased [between 2001 and 2009]. The percentage of low-income households with a computer rose to 47.7% from 19.8% in 2001….
The percentage of low-income homes with air-conditioning equipment rose to 83.5% from 65.8%, with dishwashers to 30.8% from 17.6%, with a washing machine to 62.4% from 57.2%, and with a clothes dryer to 56.5% from 44.9%.”
The argument that the poor are somehow “doing okay” because they have access to air conditioners, time saving devices, and computers is a distraction from a larger discussion that is worth having, and ignores key issues underlying the consumption theory. Continue reading
With the recent push by Senate lawmakers and the White House for immigration reform, one number is being tossed around a lot. It has been estimated that there are about 11 million illegal residents in the United States. Where does that number come from and who exactly are these people?
These questions were highlighted in a recent National Journal article by Brian Resnick, which describes the work of Pew Hispanic Center demographer Jeffrey Passel, whose estimates of the illegal immigrant population have become widely used in the media. The illegal immigrant population cannot be directly measured by any of the major national surveys. Unsurprisingly, response rates for voluntary, and even legally-required, surveys are particularly low for the illegal population. Instead, Passel and the Pew Hispanic Center rely on a methodology that indirectly measures this group of people. Here’s how it works:
Every year, the Cooper Center produces the official population estimates for the commonwealth of Virginia. The current estimates are based on changes since the 2010 census in housing stock, school enrollment, births, deaths, and driver’s licenses. They are used by state and local government agencies in revenue sharing, funding allocations, planning and budgeting.
Since 2010, Virginia has grown faster than the nation, growing by 2.3% between the 2010 census and July 2, 2012, to nearly 8.2 million residents. Within Virginia, the largest population gains continue to be concentrated in the urban centers of Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads. And much of Virginia’s overall growth remains driven by the rapid growth of Northern Virginia, with 54% of the state’s growth between 2010 and 2012 occurring in NoVA.
Figure 1. Numerical Population Change, 2010-2012
Although many growth patterns in the population estimates appear to be the continuation of past trends – Northern Virginia’s continued growth, stagnant growth and population loss in more rural areas of the state—the 2012 estimates also show signs of population aging and renewed growth in Virginia’s independent cities.
On Monday, the Virginia Senate narrowly passed (20-19) a new redistricting bill that will dramatically change the boundaries of the current Senate districts drawn just two years ago. The plan, passed by Senate Republicans on a party-line vote when a Democratic Senator was away on Inauguration Day, has been criticized by Democrats as an overt attempt to give Republicans an advantage in future elections by “packing” and “cracking” black communities in Virginia in order to dilute their voting power. Republican Sen. John Watkins, the legislator who sponsored the redistricting amendments, instead says the new plan would defuse possible Voting Rights Act legal challenges by creating a new minority-majority district and also cited improvements in district compactness.
The move by Senate Republicans is unusual, as such massive changes to a district map are typically reserved for redistricting sessions right after the decennial census. As a result, this recent redistricting drama has garnered much national attention this week and was a top-ten story on Politico.com Wednesday.
The Virginia Public Access Project has made the proposed HB259 plan available for viewing on their interactive maps:
This is my third and final blog post about the Census Bureau’s special report on Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010. My first two posts covered information from the first three chapters of the report - the basic information about urban areas and an overview of their population change in the last decade and population density in the United States. In this post I’ll present the biggest takeaways of the final two chapters, which provide data on race, Hispanic origin, age, and gender composition. Continue reading
We can expect the number of Virginians with disabilities to increase in coming years, leading to increased demands for services such as Social Security Disability or home-health services. There are for two reasons for this:
- Increases in life expectancy. Disability is much more common at older ages; as people live longer, they will be more likely to live long enough to develop a disability.
- Aging Baby Boomers. The large cohort of Baby Boomers began to turn 65 in 2010; disability rates increase substantially after age 65. Statewide and nationally, the population 65 and older will grow as the Baby Boomers age.
Since 2008, the American Community Survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, has asked a set of questions to capture six dimensions of disability. The types of disability reported range from sensory disabilities (vision and hearing), difficulty performing self-care tasks such as dressing or bathing, or difficulties performing activities associated with independent living such as shopping or going to the doctor.
The proportion of disabled individuals in Virginia increases dramatically with age, as shown by the graph below. Fewer than 5 percent of Virginians under the age of 30 report any disabling condition while more than one in three Virginians ages 65 and older report at least one disability.
Disability Rate by Age in Virginia, 2011 ACS
Following the November election, much of the coverage focused on both the current and future impact of changing demographics. Changes in household structure and family formation, population aging, and increases in diversity are population trends that will continue to play out over the coming decades. Virginia’s demographic landscape, like the nation’s, is projected to shift substantially by 2040. Continue reading