September 17, 2010 | 8:01 AM
Grim new statistics on poverty in America were released by the United States Census Bureau yesterday. One in seven Americans, representing 44 million people, lived in poverty in 2009. The poverty rate rose to 14.3%, up from 13.2% in 2006. Even more distressing was the finding that children have been particularly hard hit with one in five individuals under 18 living below the poverty line, which is defined as $10,380 for a single adult and $22,050 for a family of four. For the working age population, representing people aged 18 to 65, the poverty rate rose from 11.7 to 12.9 percent, the highest level since the 1960s. Additionally, the number of Americans without health insurance also rose, going from 46 million in 2008 to 51 million in 2009.
While poverty rates rose across all races and ethnic groups, minorities fared significantly worse. For blacks, the number in poverty increased from 24.7 to 25.8 percent, while for Hispanics, the number increased from 23.2 to 25.3 percent. For white Americans, those in poverty rose from 8.6 percent to 9.4 percent
These depressing new findings serve to underscore the dramatic need for microfinance in America. More than ever, Americans are in desperate need of a solution, or solutions, to this challenging problem. Microlending and microcredit are proven methods and valuable tools in combating poverty. Giving the poor the ability to start their own businesses and become entrepreneurs is a way to empower people and allow them to lift themselves out of poverty through their own hard work and resolve. Grameen America’s mission is to help create a world free of poverty. That may seem a daunting task, especially given the bleak numbers released by the Census Bureau, but with commitment and determination it is achievable within our lifetimes.