Poverty Trends, 1980-88:

Changes in Family Composition and Income Sources Among the Poor

PEMD-92-34: Published: Sep 10, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the size and composition of the poverty population, focusing on: (1) composition changes in regards to population growth, food and housing benefits, and federal taxes; (2) subgroup growth changes or poverty rates; and (3) the effect of proposed statistical adjustments on poverty rates.

GAO found that: (1) the poor were likely to live in families headed by single parents or non-elderly and non-disabled single adults; (2) single parent families increased by 25.5 percent, totalling 8.1 million, due to increasing divorce rates and unmarried couples' cohabitation practices; (3) 23 percent of poor single parents consist of single parent males and never-married women; (4) increases in never-married women living alone, consisted primarily of women aged 25-44 with high school diplomas and working full time; (5) the percentage of teenage mothers in poverty did not increase significantly; (6) single-female-headed families are 3 times more likely than single-male-headed families to be in poverty; (7) single-parent cohabitation increased by 66 percent; (8) the poverty rate for young families decreased by 13.3 percent due to family composition shifts; (9) young family heads tend to be unmarried, black, and less educated; (10) married couples' level of work effort remained constant; (11) family income from government cash and near-cash programs declined proportionately, and smaller proportions of poor families received and were removed from poverty by means-tested benefits; (12) the number of poor disabled increased slightly, and reasons for poverty included low personal earnings, low education, and less likelihood of cohabitation; (13) disabled family heads are generally less likely to be in poverty due to greater access to public and private retirement benefits and family members' supplements; (14) changes in family type and age accounted for the greatest changes, due to cohabitation of unrelated individuals and a decline in the disabled aged 55-64; and (15) child care, child support and state taxes represent 15 to 20 percent of income for the poor and near poor.

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