Washington: The gulf between rich and poor in the US is yawning wider than ever, and the number of extremely impoverished is at a three-decade high, a report said.
Based on the latest available US census data from 2005, the McClatchy Newspapers analysis on 24 February found that almost 16 million Americans live in “deep or severe poverty” defined as a family of four with two children earning less than $9,903 -- one half the federal poverty line figure.
For individuals the “deep poverty” threshold was an income under $5,080 a year.
“The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26% from 2000 to 2005,” the US newspaper chain reported.
“That’s 56% faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period,” it noted.
The surge in poverty comes alongside 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,” the study found.
“That helps explain why the median household income for working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.
“These and other factors have helped push 43% 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.
It 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 has grown “more than any other segment of the population”.
“That was the exact opposite of what we anticipated when we began,” said Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, a study co-author.
“We’re not seeing as much moderate poverty as a proportion of the population. What we’re seeing is a dramatic growth of severe poverty.”
US social programmes are minimal compared to those of western Europe and Canada. The US has a population of 301 million, but more than 45 million US citizens have no health insurance.