The giving season reminds us to be selfless and 38 million people in the U.S. lack access to adequate food, a new report looks at 2021’s Neediest Cities.
Hoping to inspire goodwill toward the less fortunate, WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 28 key metrics to determine where Americans are most economically disadvantaged. The data set includes factors like the child poverty rate, food-insecurity rate, and uninsured rate.
|1. Detroit, MI||11. Laredo, TX|
|2. Brownsville, TX||12. Shreveport, LA|
|3. Cleveland, OH||13. Miami, FL|
|4. Fresno, CA||14. Memphis, TN|
|5. Gulfport, MS||15. Jackson, MS|
|6. Los Angeles, CA||16. Birmingham, AL|
|7. Newark, NJ||17. Philadelphia, PA|
|8. Baltimore, MD||18. Richmond, VA|
|9. New Orleans, LA||19. Hialeah, FL|
|10. St. Louis, MO||20. Augusta, GA|
Fremont, California, has the lowest child poverty rate, 3.09 percent, which is 16.2 times lower than in Detroit, the city with the highest at 50.19 percent.
Pearl City, Hawaii, has the lowest adult poverty rate, 3.94 percent, which is 7.8 times lower than in Huntington, West Virginia, the city with the highest at 30.71 percent.
Overland Park, Kansas, has the fewest homeless persons (per 1,000 residents), 0.30, which is 78.1 times fewer than in Fresno, California, the city with the most at 23.42.
Lincoln, Nebraska, has the lowest unemployment rate, 1.30 percent, which is nine times lower than in Detroit, the city with the highest at 11.70 percent.
Pearl City, Hawaii, has the lowest share of uninsured residents, 1.50 percent, which is 20.7 times lower than in Brownsville, Texas, the city with the highest at 31.10 percent.
What are the main challenges facing low-income families today?
“One of the main challenges low-income families face today is the lack of affordable housing. Of all expenditures, low-income families typically spend the largest share on housing, and…what they can afford is often substandard and unstable. Many families found that pandemic rental assistance was very difficult to get due to complicated application procedures that sometimes required the cooperation of landlords who were not convinced it was the right move for them to participate at all,” said Joan Maya Mazelis, Ph.D., associate professor, Rutgers University-Camden.
“Certainly, the impact of COVID-19 has disproportionately affected families with low incomes. Many families on the lower end of the income distribution worked jobs that could not easily be transitioned online. In my research with families with low incomes, we see many folks are currently facing high rates of food insecurity and cannot pay all of their bills or rent. Many of these families are also noting that basic expenses – like food or other essentials – are costing more to cover now than they did one year ago,” added
Natasha Pilkauskas, MPP, Ph.D., an associate professor, University of Michigan.
How can charities and nonprofits most effectively serve the poor?
“Charities and nonprofits have an important role to play but should not take the place of assistance from the federal government. Charities and nonprofits are most effective when they listen to what their target clients say they want and need and involve them in the process. People in poverty have a lot of knowledge and experience to share and often want to be involved in devising strategies to improve their situations. Tapping into their expertise and involving them in the process can make charities and nonprofits as effective as possible,” Maya Mazelis said.
“Charities and nonprofits can advocate for more federal and state-level funding for social welfare programs that help families. While charities and nonprofits are incredibly important for providing social services, such as health and mental health services, etc., they cannot be relied upon to provide the financial support that lower-income families need due to low wages, high costs of housing, and child care. They can also help low-income families navigate the social welfare labyrinth of systems and administrative burdens so they can access the benefits and programs that they are eligible for. Providing help with internet connections, getting paperwork together, and so on,” said Lenna Nepomnyaschy, an associate professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
What should be the main focus of local authorities when outlining a strategy to help people in need during the pandemic?
“I think making sure those in need get the assistance that is designated for them would be a huge step forward. This will require streamlining application processes for rental assistance and removing barriers that keep people from eligibility when they are in need. I also think local authorities can follow Philadelphia, PA’s lead in coupling rental assistance with an eviction diversion program,” according to Maya Mazelis.
“Relying on a plethora of very high-quality research that is being produced by numerous organizations showing what works and what does not work. People need money, they need to be paid sick leave, they need child care, they need housing (eviction moratoria). And better jobs and better wages,” Nepomnyaschy said.