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Poverty remains stable in U.S. - but many making less

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 13th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

For the past year, poverty levels in the United States - families and household that are living below the federal guidelines - has remained the same. That's the good news. However, many families are now making do with less - spurring fears that they soon will join the poor.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "At a time when the poverty rate is stuck at a very high level, federal and state governments are broke, politicians are talking about reducing taxes, programs for the elderly are crowding out programs for working-age families, and a struggling middle class is in no position to help those trying to join their ranks. It is very simply a terrible time to be poor," Isabel V. Sawhill, senior fellow at the left-leaning think tank The Brookings Institution says.

Following three straight years of increases, the number of Americans living below the poverty line remained the same in 2011.

There's another bright spot: According to data released by the Census Bureau, the number of Americans with health insurance increased in 2011.

Officials say that 260.2 million Americans, or 84.3 percent, had health insurance coverage in 2011. That's up from 256.6 million, or 83.7 percent, in 2010. The percentage of people with government health insurance increased.

The bureau reported that about 46.2 million people lived in poverty last year, approximately the same as the prior year's record levels. Median household income dropped for a second time in a row, after accounting for inflation, shedding 1.5 percent to $50,054 from the 2010 median. Families were hardest hit, the government said. Their real median household income fell 1.7 percent, to $62,273.

Wages in American households dwindled by 8.1 percent versus 2007, the year before the deepest recession since the Great Depression officially began. Income was 8.9 percent lower than it was in 1999.

The report painted a mixed picture of the economy ahead of the presidential election in November that pits President Barack Obama, a Democrat, against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney has assailed Obama for his record on the economy. Obama has been countering by asking Americans for more time to fix the economic problems he says he inherited from his predecessor.

Households that include people who are white or black were harder hit than Hispanic and Asian households, the report said.

The biggest declines in household median income were in the West, while other regions of the country weren't as hard hit.

For women, the income gap remained the same last year vs. the year before. The Census Bureau reported that women who worked full-time, year-round made 77 percent of what men made. But real median wages for both genders declined last year by 2.5 percent.

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