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Mon, Feb 26, 2007 - Page 10 News List

US rich-poor divide at a three-decade high, report says


The gulf between rich and poor in the US is yawning wider than ever and the number of extremely impoverished individuals is at a three-decade high, a report released on Saturday found.

Based on the latest available US census data from 2005, the McClatchy Newspapers analysis found that almost 16 million Americans live in "deep or severe poverty" defined as a family of four with two children earning less than US$9,903 -- one half the federal poverty line figure.

For individuals the "deep poverty" threshold was an income under US$5,080 a year.

"The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005," the US newspaper chain reported.

"That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period," it noted.

The surge in poverty came alongside an unusual economic expansion.

"Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind," the study found.

"That helps explain why the median household income for working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years," the study said.

"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. The share of poor Americans in deep poverty has climbed slowly but steadily over the last three decades," the report said.

The study quoted an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study as having found that since 2000, the number of severely poor -- far below basic poverty terms -- in the US had grown "more than any other segment of the population."

"That was the exact opposite of what we anticipated when we began," said Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, a study co-author.

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