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Marketplace Scratch Pad

The poor (and everyone else) getting poorer

Scott Jagow Sep 10, 2009

Today, the Census Bureau came out with its annual report on incomes, poverty and health insurance. I’ll spare you the depression of reading through the whole thing and just give you a couple of the lowlights.

The takeaway from David Leonhardt at the Economix blog was that median household income fell to $50,303 last year from $52,163 in 2007. That means, for the decade, income is lower:

In the four decades that the Census Bureau has been tracking household income, there has never before been a full decade in which median income failed to rise…

What’s going on here? It’s a combination of two trends. One, economic growth in the current decade has been slower than in any decade since before World War II. Two, inequality has risen sharply, so much of the bounty from our growth has gone to a relatively small slice of the population.

To underscore that point, the number of people in poverty increase by 2.5 million to almost 40 million. That’s 13.2% of the population, the highest rate of poverty in more than a decade. For a family of four, that means making less than $22,000.

Reuters blogger Felix Salmon notes this:

The poverty rate for children under the age of 18 is now an eye-popping 19%: basically one child in every five is living in poverty in the US. And even if a slow economic recovery is beginning to take hold, I can’t see that number declining much in the foreseeable future. Which is unconscionable, in the richest country in the world.

The only positive to come out of the data was that the percentage of children without health insurance fell to under 10%, which is the lowest number since the Bureau started keeping track.

Another way to look the income situation would be — what are the best places to earn a living? Forbes has a list for that. Topping the list: Dallas, Houston, Austin, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Atlanta and Washington, DC.

I suppose that means your best chance of making more money could lie deep in the heart of Texas.

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