Tags: Census | poverty | income | wages

Census Report: 15 percent of Americans Live in Poverty

Thursday, 19 Sep 2013 08:00 AM

By Michelle Smith

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In 2012, 46.5 million Americans, or 15 percent of the nation, lived in poverty in 2012, which was not statistically different from 2011, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Five years after the onset of the financial crisis many people are analyzing and debating the nation's progress, but this report underscores the existence of stubborn effects.

"We've had [economic] growth, but it hasn't really reached everyday Americans," Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told CNNMoney.

Editor’s Note:
Retired Americans Slammed by Obama’s Redistribution Plans

"It's a lost decade, maybe more," she adds.

Last year's poverty threshold was defined as $11,720 for an individual and $23,283 for a four-person household. And the recession is blamed for many people's inclusion among the impoverished.

The poverty rate peaked at 15.1 percent in 2010 and has barely budged since. According to CNNMoney, the poverty rate in the United States hasn't been at or above 15 percent for a three-year stretch since 1965, amid President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.

The report also lends fodder to widely cited concerns about stagnant wages. At $51,017, median household income was basically flat last year.

It's important to look beyond the annual figures, though, and frame the assessment in post-recession terms. Real household income is still 8.3 percent below where it was in 2007.

"Everything is flat — at a time when we need progress," Sheldon Danziger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, which supports research on poverty and social issues, told the Los Angeles Times.

The income gap was a factor largely unchanged in 2012, but there's still cause for concern.

Census officials say a key indicator of inequality remained at its peak. Poverty figures for Latino and black individuals were more than double the rate for whites, and the rate for children was a high 21.8 percent.

Rising inequality isn't normally a good sign for social stability. And the outlook isn't rosy. Even as unemployment rates decline, experts are not looking for rapid improvement of poverty or household income, the Times reported.

"The combination of high unemployment and low-income jobs depresses wages for at least 60 percent of the work force," Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, told the Times.

"There's nothing in this data that signals that the economic recovery has kick-started and things are getting better for most people," she added.

The Census' findings on health insurance were considered the report's bright spot. More people obtained coverage in 2012, marking a second annual increase.

Editor’s Note: Retired Americans Slammed by Obama’s Redistribution Plans

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