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Poverty Increases First Time in Four Years

The 2001 U.S. Census Bureau report on income revealed that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

According to the annual report, there are 1.3 million more poor Americans, bringing the total for 2001 to 32.9 million. Last year, 11.7 percent of all Americans were living in poverty.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
The report noted that last year marked the first increase in poverty in four years.
 
Median household income also declined 2.2 percent, making it $42,228 in 2001.
 
“Like the last year-to-year increase in poverty in 1991-1992 and the last decrease in real household income in 1990-1991, these changes coincide with a recession,” Daniel Weinberg, chief of the Census Bureau’s Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, said in a press release.
 
The recession affected Americans of all races, religions and classes, according to the report.
 
All regions of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United States, except the Northwest, experienced a decline in household income.
 
A family of four was considered poor if it had a cash income of less than $18,104. The poverty levels are updated each year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index, according to the New York Times.
 
President Bush remained optimistic about Americans recovering from the recession, according to the Times.
 
“When you combine the productivity of the American people with low interest rates and low inflation, those are ingredients for growth,” Bush said at a press conference.
 
Weinberg said in a press release that the latest recession showed an unusual pattern because it raised the poverty level among whites more than among minority groups. Increases in poverty in 2001 were concentrated in suburbs, in the South and among whites.
 
The poverty rate in the South rose to 13.5 percent last year, from 12.8 percent in the previous year. “The South is home to more than 40 percent of all the nation’s poor, and it accounted for more than half of the national increase in the number of poor last year,” the Times reported.
 
The number of poor people in the suburbs rose by 700,000 people, making the total 12 million, according to the report.
 
Of the 32.9 million poor in the United States, 11.7 million were under 18 and 3.4 million were older than 65.
 
The report also revealed that the number of “severely poor”—those with family incomes totaling less than half of the official poverty level—rose to 13.4 million last year, from 12.6 million in 2000.
 
The Census Bureau also found that the richest fifth of Americans received half of all household income last year, up from 45 percent in 1985. The poorest fifth received 3.5 percent of total household income.
 
“Average income for the top 5 percent of households rose by $1,000 last year, to $260,464,” the Times reported.
 
“The census data show that income inequality either set a record in 2001 or tied for the highest level on record,” Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Times.
 
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.