That awesome economy of ours

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Among the information contained in the latest Census report on poverty
(New Mexico is second-to-last in the nation for the percentage of people without health care!) is the news that the number of “severaly poor” Americans grew at an alarming rate between 2000 and 2005. According to McClatchy (hat tip to TAPPED):

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That’s 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy’s review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn’t confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation’s 37 million poor people into deep poverty – the highest rate since at least 1975.

I just checked, and, sure enough, Ezra has a post online about the latest news:

[W]e’re not just seeing an increase in poverty, we’re seeing an increase in severe poverty, to the highest rate since 1975. And this is all coming at the tail end of a fairly robust — at least if you believe the macroeconomic numbers — expansionary period.

Indeed, this has been the first expansion in which poverty has increased in every successive year (I haven’t seen the data for 2006 yet). That’s a fairly remarkable trend, and a real break with how our economy traditionally worked. Periods of growth used to aid every element of society, but we’ve become so unequal that even multiyear expansions will peter out before they reach the bottom segments of society. Meanwhile, the Luxembourg Income Study found that America has the highest child poverty rate of any of the 31 developed nations studied. As the wise Ms. Goodrich says, “that is one international competition the U.S. probably doesn’t want to win.” If only we weren’t so damn competitive.

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