The level of human need in the United States increased 15 percent on a year-over-year basis in 2015, a report from the Salvation Army and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University finds.
Based on aggregate data tracking seven services commonly delivered by nonprofits — meals provided, groceries, clothing, housing, furniture, medical assistance, and help with energy bills — the Human Needs Index found that the level of need nationwide fell from 3.00 in 2012 to 2.57 in 2013 and 1.97 in 2014, but rose to 2.28 in 2015 — with increases in all categories except groceries provided. North Dakota had the highest HNI score, followed by Nevada, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Michigan. Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, South Carolina, and West Virginia saw the greatest year-over-year increases in their HNI values.
An online poll commissioned by the Salvation Army found that 55.2 percent of respondents personally know someone they consider to be poor or living in poverty. In addition, 89.5 percent of respondents believe it is difficult or somewhat difficult to escape poverty, while 64.2 percent believe the government or elected officials should be responsible for helping people living in poverty and 17.3 percent believe self-determination is the most important thing for people struggling with poverty.
"The increased need in 2015 likely is due at least in part to the fact that a number of economic indicators grew more slowly in 2015 than in 2014," said Una Osili, director of research for the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "The 2015 Human Needs Index value is similar to values seen prior to 2014, making clear that significant pockets of need remain in many places in the U.S. since the Great Recession."
"The index shows a reality that is different than what people might assume from seeing positive reports like increases in employment and minimum wage," said Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, the Salvation Army's national community relations and development secretary. "While those are positive developments, we cannot forget that a significant part of the population can't make ends meet and is experiencing real need."