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Martin Luther King Jr. was an outspoken advocate for the poor and less fortunate. At the time of his death, he was organizing a cross-racial Poor People’s Campaign that raised many issues still important today. Many Americans—particularly communities of color and young people—continue to lack access to economic opportunities and this must be addressed if we are to truly carry on Dr. King’s work.
This by-the-numbers piece takes a look at how many Americans are still struggling to find a way out of poverty, find employment, and gain both health care and education not only for themselves but for their families.
We will only realize Dr. King’s vision when every American has the chance to find a well-paying job, get health care when they get sick, and receive a quality education. The numbers below show much work remains.
To start fixing this problem, it’s important that we grow the country’s number of low-skill jobs, so that those in poverty can begin to find a way out. We also need to maintain a solid safety net for those who can’t work, such as the elderly and the disabled.
December’s unemployment numbers were lower than they’ve been since February 2009, but many people are still struggling to find work, including minorities, young adults, and those without a high school diploma. Long-term unemployment also still remains a major problem.
According to Christian E. Weller, an associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and a CAP Senior Fellow, long-term unemployment continues to affect many Americans:
Weller says that in order to fight “[t]hese persistent and long-running weaknesses” we must give “continued policy attention with extended unemployment-insurance benefits, support for states and localities to maintain employment in education, health care, and other critical services, and infrastructure investment to buttress the blooming recovery in construction and manufacturing.”
Many Americans are also struggling to get health care—the most basic of needs. 49.1 million people under 65 didn’t have insurance in 2010.
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The Affordable Care Act, the health reform legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, can help these people get the coverage they need:
As many of these same groups fight against poverty, unemployment, and finding affordable health care, they also struggle to attain a college degree and the chance to move up the economic ladder.
For-profit school students are also more likely to default on their loans:
Congress should ensure that all students have access to quality, affordable college options by:
This article was published by the Center for American Progress.