USA #1 Highest Poverty Rate Among Developed Nations
In the United States, the official numbers tell us that
approximately 37 million people live in poverty.
As shockingly high as those numbers appear, I think they still significantly underrate the problem. The government uses an absurdly low cost of living to measure poverty.
The poverty threshold varies depending on age and family size. On average a family of four is considered to be living in poverty if its annual cash income is below $18,810, according to government guidelines. The threshold falls to about $14,680 for a family of three, $12,015 for a couple and $9,393 for an individual.
In the United States over one-fifth of all U.S. children are living in poverty.
U.S. policies were relatively ineffective in supplementing poverty-level incomes to keep children out of poverty. After taking into account the taxes (including refundable taxes) and transfers, the U.S. still led the 16 developed countries in child poverty.
Report: 1.3 million more Americans in poverty. Ranks of uninsured grow by 1.4 million, Census Bureau says.
The rise was more dramatic for children. There were 12.9 million living in poverty last year, or 17.6 percent of the under-18 population. That was an increase of about 800,000 from 2002, when 16.7 percent of all children were in poverty.
The ranks of the uninsured have risen by more than 5 million.
Although the economy has added 1.5 million jobs over the past year, the economy was still shedding jobs as recently as the summer of 2003, and job growth has been slower than previous expansion periods.
In another sign of a growing economic problem that is a key issue in the presidential election, the Census Bureau said the number of Americans without health insurance coverage rose to 45 million or 15.6 percent of the population, up 1.4 million from 2002, when 15.2 percent of the population was uninsured.
The increase, which mainly affected working-age adults across income brackets, was caused by a drop in the percentage of people covered by private, employment-based health insurance. The government Medicare and Medicaid programs expanded to cover an additional 3 million people.
The rising inequality in American society should come as no surprise to anyone who has examined income distribution statistics from the past two decades.
While the top 20 percent of Americans, and especially the top 5 percent, have done very well indeed during the economic good times of the '80s and '90s, the vast majority of Americans have seen no real increase in their incomes despite the aura of prosperity.
Much of the blame lies with depressed wages, especially those earned by the working poor. Anyone receiving the current federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is unable to support a family, and if the minimum wage of thirty years ago were translated into today's dollars, it would be more than $2 higher--approximately $7.35--than it actually is.
Nevertheless, a 1998 congressional effort to raise it to $6.15 went nowhere, and the successes that local activist groups have had in persuading several dozen major cities to adopt "Living Wage" measures that require municipal contractors to pay higher minimum wages have received little attention in the national press.