More Americans living in Poverty


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More Americans were living in poverty last year than in the entire 52 years that the US Census Bureau has been tracking the figure, new reports say.

Demographers raking over the 2010 census info have revealed that 56.2 million people in the US were living below the poverty line last year, which puts the percentage of impoverished Americans at nearly one-in-six, reports The New York Times. While the population of the country continues to grow, the raw number of Americans suffering does as well. Speaking in terms of per capita, the 15.1 percent figure of impoverished in 2010 is the highest sampling since 1993.

Data suggests that an additional 2.6 million people in America dipped below the poverty line last year, which the Office of Management and Budge says is an annual income of around $22,314 for a family of four, or $11,139 for a single individual. For adults aged 25 to 34, 45.3 percent were living below the poverty line as of last year.

The median income for 2010, $47,715, is only within a few dollars of the 1973 statistic, adjusted for inflation, signaling a stagnant level of wage earning over the course of several decades now. CNN reports that while consumer prices have risen by around 150 percent since 1980, people in America bring in an average of only 11 percent more than they did 30 years earlier.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, adds to the report with the shocking statistic that the number of Americans in need of health insurance went up as well — now at nearly 30 million. The AP says that a weak economy in the wake of the recession has caused an alarming amount of Americans to lose benefits from their employers, and as the unemployment rate continues at 9.1 percent for the month of August, nearly 14 million Americans are out of a job entirely.

“The figures we are releasing today are important,” Robert Groves, the director of the Census Bureau, tells The Times. “They tell us how changing economic conditions have impacted Americans and their families.”

The recession didn’t impact all Americans for the worse, however. Households raking in more than $100,000 annually saw a raise in income last year compared to 2009. The bottom 60 percent saw their income drop drastically.

Back in 2009, only 14.3 percent of the country was living below poverty. Statistics from the 2010 census suggest that that percentage has now gone up for three years in a row.

Income has a high correlation with educational levels. In 2007, the median earnings of household headed by individuals with less than a 9th grade education was $20,805 while households headed by high school graduates received $40,456, households headed holders of bachelor’s degree earned $77,605, and families headed by individuals with professional degrees earned $100,000.

In many cases poverty is caused by job loss. In 2007, the poverty rate was 21.5% for individuals who were unemployed, but only 2.5% for individuals who were employed full time.

 In 1991, 8.3% of children in two-parent families were likely to live in poverty; 19.6% of children lived with father in single parent family; and 47.1% in single parent family headed by mother. Income levels vary with age. For example, the median 2009 income for households headed by individuals age 15-24 was only $30,750, but increased to $50,188 for household headed by individuals age 25-34 and $61,083 for household headed by individuals 35-44. Although the reasons are unclear, work experience and additional education may be factors.

The relationship between tax rates and poverty is disputed. A study comparing high tax Scandinavian countries with the U. S. suggests high tax rates are inversely correlated with poverty rates. The poverty rate, however, is low in some low tax countries such as Switzerland. A comparison of poverty rates between states reveals that some low tax states have low poverty rates. For example, New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate of any state in the U. S., and has very low taxes (46th among all states). It is true however that in those instances, both Switzerland and New Hampshire have a very high household income and other measures to levy or offset the lack of taxation. For example, Switzerland has Universal Healthcare and a free system of education for children as young as four years old. New Hampshire has no state income tax or sales tax, but does have the nation’s highest property taxes.

The conservative Heritage Foundation speculates that illegal immigration increases job competition among low wage earners, both native and foreign born. Additionally many first generation immigrants, namely those without a high school diploma, are also living in poverty themselves.

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