Poverty and race

You would be surprised how many people do not realize that there are a lot of poor whites in this country. This is especially true among the wealthier white social justice types. For a long time, I assumed that these activists did not care that much about class issues, which is perhaps troubling in some ways, but also understandable: folks pick and choose the issues they focus on. But more recently, I’ve come to understand that many of these folks have not decided to sideline class; they actually think that class issues are a subset of race issues. That is, they think that being poor is a people of color issue, and that therefore racial justice covers it. That’s totally wrong.

There are more poor whites in this country than any other race. Of the 46.2 million people that were counted below the poverty line in 2011, 19.2 million were non-Hispanic Whites, 13.2 million were Hispanics, 10.9 million were Blacks, and 2 million were Asians. If you were to pick a poor person at random, you are more likely to land on a White person than any other race. Beyond that, 19.2 million people is just a lot of people. In 2011, 19.2 million people was 6.2 percent of the total population.

The reason there are more poor Whites than any other race is simply because there are more White people than any other group. When we look at what percent of each racial group is below the poverty line, the numbers are much different.

When looking at percentages, it’s clear that poverty disproportionately affects Blacks and Hispanics. These disproportionate rates of poverty are very important to note, but they aren’t the only thing to note in this discussion. The raw numbers are important too. Ignoring the nearly 20 million poor Whites is both bad justice and bad politics.