MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Poverty in America is a big problem – but it’s an even bigger concern in the Bluff City.
In fact, the poverty rate in Memphis is more than double the rate across the rest of the country. That’s according to the 2019 poverty fact sheet that was just released by a University of Memphis associate professor.
But there’s a number on the fact sheet that’s even more perplexing: the number of Memphis children in poverty. 44.9 percent of children in Memphis are impoverished, according to the study.
“Generally, families don’t have only one child. They have maybe two children. So you have a family in poverty. That may be one adult, but two children. So, that would make it logical that the children in poverty is higher than the amount of adults in poverty,” said Dr. Elena Delevega, the associate professor of social work who helped create the study.
The minimum wage hasn’t increased in Tennessee since 2009. It’s currently $7.25 an hour. If someone works at that wage fulltime for a year, they make just over $15k a year – not enough for a family of two to be above the poverty line.
“Poverty is a lack of money. Education is important, but it’s about people making those wages. People making enough money to meet their needs,” Delevega said.
Often, she said children coming from impoverished families don’t have a support system that can help them get ahead in school, or even get a credit score to take out a lone. Delevega said many kids in poverty work to help their parents, making it impossible for them to save.
Thankfully, organizations such as Porter-Leath work to help lift kids and families out of poverty starting early.
“It’s extremely disheartening, but while it’s disheartening it gives me the energy and motivation to continue moving forward doing the work we’re doing at Porter-Leath each and every day,” Karen Harrell, the Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Services at Porter-Leath, said.
Porter-Leath is an organization lifts kids up – sometimes even before they’re born, by helping families out.
Harrell said they’re dedicated to driving that 45 percent down – and while their efforts are felt throughout the community, Dr. Delevega said at the end of the day, money is what the impoverished need.
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