South Carolina’s poverty rate remained ninth highest in the nation according tothe U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey data released last week.
More than 860,000 South Carolinians lived below the poverty threshold in 2013, which for a family of four amounted to $23,550 in annual household income. The percentage of South Carolinians classified as in poverty during the 12-month data period between 2012 and 2013 rose slightly, from 18.3 percent to 18.6 percent.
The proportionof children under 18 living in poverty in the state rose from 26.9 percent to 27.5 percent.
The numbers – and the fact that they’re not improving – did not surprise Columbia lawyer Tom Turnipseed and his wife, Judy. Thesocial activists say theysee the evidence of economic inequality every week at Finlay Park, where they help serve free meals to nearly 200 people, many of them homeless.
People are hurting even more than the numbers indicate, Tom Turnipseed said, and those who are well off are all too likely to turn a blind eye.
“Maybe even there’s a little shame there,” he said. “We don’t want to admit that we have such poverty in our midst. You know, good churchgoing people hear about Jesus reaching out to the poor, and we just don’t want to face up to it.”
The proportion of people living in poverty in South Carolina surpassed the national figure of 15.8 percent who met the poverty threshold in the past 12 months.
Who lives in poverty in the Palmetto State?
• Women were more likely than men to be impoverished, with 20.2 percent of women compared to 16.8 percent of men falling below the threshold.
• Nearly a third of both African-Americans and Hispanics, compared to 13.5 percent of whites.
• A tenth of South Carolinians over age 65.
• A third of people age 25 and older who did not complete high school, and about 5 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
• Forty percent of people 16 and older who were unemployed.
Between 2012 and 2013, poverty rates rose about 2 percentage points in Richland County to 18.6 percent. In Columbia the rate rose from 22.3 to 24.1 percent. Lexington County saw a decrease from 15.1 to 12.5 percent of people living below the poverty line.
Poverty rates locally and nationally are up between about 2 and 6 percentage points, respectively, compared to 2007, before the national financial crisis.