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Economic prosperity in the U.S.? Figures say otherwise

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While the United States appears to be on the move again, with consumers buying more and more people returning to work, the cold figures of domestic poverty and unemployment paint a far grimmer picture. According to 2011 figures, four in 10 U.S. adults fall into abject poverty at least once in their lives. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While President Obama has declared in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen in the U.S.

Poverty is especially hard on white Americans. Pessimism among whites and their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. Sixty-three percent of whites surveyed describe the U.S. economy as "poor."


Economic insecurity among whites is more pervasive than is shown in government data. The average white American - at least 76 percent, has tasted the bitter sting of poverty at least once by the time they turn 60.


The term "economic insecurity" is defined someone who has experienced unemployment at some point in their working lives. It can also mean time spent such as a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. 


Measured across all races - black, white, Hispanic, other -- the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.


"The invisible poor" as defined by demographers are typically lower-income whites dispersed in the suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. 


Many poor whites are concentrated in the Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.


Interestingly, more than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, nearly double the number of poor blacks.


These figures still fail to capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives, who may reside in the suburbs or the working poor or the laid off.


The risks of poverty have only worsened in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. People ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period. This risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 periods. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.


Some things remain constant. Nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.


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