Census Bureau says 1.3 million more slipped into poverty last year; health care coverage also drops.
August 26, 2004: 1:54 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The number of Americans living in poverty jumped to 35.9 million last year, up by 1.3 million, while the number of those without health care insurance rose to 45 million from 43.6 million in 2002, the U.S. government said in a report Thursday.
The percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty rose to 12.5 percent from 12.1 percent -- as the poverty rate among children jumped to its highest level in 10 years, the Census Bureau said in an annual report. The rate for adults 18-to-64 and 65-and-older remained steady.
The bureau also said the share of aggregate income for the lowest 20 percent of Americans fell to 3.4 percent from 3.5 percent.
Democratic politicians were quick to seize on the new data, and none was quicker than their presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. He said the statistics "underscore the fundamental choice at stake in this election."
"Four more years of an administration that puts the narrow interests of the few ahead of the interests of most Americans, or new leadership that will serve as a champion for the middle-class and those struggling to join it," he said in a written statement.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., released a statement noting that the Census data covered the year 2003 and "does not include the full effect of the president's tax relief."
Gregg, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, took aim at Kerry, accusing the Massachusetts senator of planning to raise taxes and increase government spending and regulation.
Kerry has argued Bush's economic stewardship, including three rounds of tax cuts since 2001, has done more to help wealthy Americans than the poor or middle class.
But analysts have said the poverty rate typically tracks the broad economy, rising during a recession and falling in boom times. America has struggled to recover from the 2001 slump, and job creation has lagged behind overall growth.
Children and most racial minorities again fared worse than the overall population in 2003, according to the Census report. The rate of child poverty rose to 17.6 percent from 16.7 percent in 2002 -- boosting the number of poor children to 12.9 million.
The poverty rate of of African Americans remained nearly twice the national rate, with 24.4 percent of blacks living below the poverty line in 2003, slightly higher from 24.1 percent a year earlier.
Hispanic incomes decline
While the real median income for the entire country remained steady, households with Hispanic householders, who can be of any race, reported a decline in median income of 2.6 percent.
Non-Hispanic white household median income remained about $48,000, black households held at $30,000, while Asian households were steady at $55,500.
The West, at $46,820, Northeast, at $46,742, and Midwest, at $44,732, saw no change in median household income, but the South fell 1.5 percent to $39,823.
Women saw a decline in their earnings for the first time since 1995, falling 0.6 percent to $30,724, putting the female-to-male earnings ratio -- for full-time, year-round workers -- at 76 cents on the dollar, a penny lower than 2002.
Health care coverage also dropped last year, the Census Bureau said in its report, seen by some as an important scorecard on the nation's economy and Bush's first term in office.
The number of Americans living without insurance jumped 1.4 million last year, the government said in a report on Thursday. (For more on the report, click here).
Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor, saw an increase in people covered to 35.6 million from 33.2 million while those covered by Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly, rose to 39.5 million from 38.4 million people.
The Office of Management and Budget at the Census Bureau defined the poverty threshold in 2003 as $18,810 for a family of four; $14,680 for a family of three; $12,015 for a family of two; and $9,393 for an individual.
How about 9/11/01 for starters.
There was a serious ripple effect that started that day. How long was it before people started doing / buying / living their lives the same way they did on 9/10/01??? Just for one example outside the travel industry, look at the incentives the auto manufacturers have doled out since then... they are cutting their own throats. I've taken advantage of it myself... they're selling huge numbers of cars (one of the biggest fiscal quarters was in the 2002 IIRC). But in order for them to sustain profitability in the face of these incentives, something had to give. So they outsource more.
JMHO. But you can't underestimate the effects that 9/11/01 had on things.
How about the fed printing money like crazy? 9/11 was a problem, but markets can bounce back from such things if allowed to. The real problem is and always has been profligate government spending. If you aren't getting at least a 3% raise every year, then you are not even breaking even income-wise--you are getting poorer each year.
We have been treated to higher taxes not only through direct tax increases, but the worst damage has been done by the hidden tax of inflation (what some would call deflation--deflating your buying power by inflating the money supply, that is).
I am swamped today so my surf time is cut back, is there a reliable source link to get for the other side of the story? Wall Street Journal? Forbes? Something that says, this is WHY these numbers appear? I know most of the things, like the flood of illegals driving wages down, 9/11, inflated business gains from the Clinton era, but I need empirical evidence.
Inflation can most certainly make you poorer. I know, I've lived in a country with wild inflation.
The USA, however, has had incredibly low inflation for years now. Greenspan has done a very good job handling it. Not saying that it's a good thing. Just saying that the USA inflation is so low that it's effects are negligable.
Poverty in the US is not nearly as bad as poverty in some other countries.
The decline in the number of people covered by health insurance is simply because health insurance got a lot more expensive.
Poor people rarely get much in the way of tax breaks, but they hardly pay any (income) taxes in the first place.
A wide gap between rich and poor is the inevitable result of successful capitalism. Deal with it.
Our local news program did a story on this and then met with one of those below poverty....
She was in a apartment with:
Clean new furniture
Decorative Glass table
Decorative place settings
Clean designer clothes
Kitchen had microwave
Kitchen had gas oven
Kitchen had blender
Plenty of silverware, plates etc
Not one rat in sight...as the kid played Xbox....
Yeah that is poverty....
The poverty rate typically lags economic recovery by about 2-3 years. Same thing happened back in the '92 recovery. The economy turned around in early 1992, and the poverty rate bottomed out around 93-94.
The current rate is pretty typical.
All you guys are way off.
Consider the millions of illegal immigrants streaming into the country over the last decade. Are these people well-off? Work for high salaries? Or are they destitute and willing to do the hardest work for the lowest wages?
If you let millions of impoversihed people into your country, OF COURSE the number of poor people in the country will increase. The US Census counts non-citizens and illegal immigrants, it doesn't distinguish between citizens and non-citizens. I know, because my brother is a Census taker and collects data for them. If anything, the number of poor in America is even larger because of the way poverty and household income is calculated, and the tendency of illegal Latino immigrants to cram large extended families into their dwellings.
All that poverty is all the Illegals coming here from mexico.