Poverty gap in US has widened under Bush
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Published: 27 February 2007
The number of Americans living in severe poverty has expanded dramatically under the Bush administration, with nearly 16 million people now living on an individual income of less than $5,000 (£2,500) a year or a family income of less than $10,000, according to an analysis of 2005 official census data.
The analysis, by the McClatchy group of newspapers, showed that the number of people living in extreme poverty had grown by 26 per cent since 2000.
Poverty as a whole has worsened, too, but the number of severe poor is growing 56 per cent faster than the overall segment of the population characterised as poor – about 37 million people in all according to the census data.
That represents more than 10 per cent of the US population, which recently surpassed the 300 million mark.
The widening of the income gap between haves and have-nots is nothing new in America – it has been going on steadily since the late 1970s.
What is new, though, is the rapid increase in numbers at the bottom of the socio-economic pile.
The numbers of severely poor have increased faster than any other segment of the population.
“That was the exact opposite of what we anticipated when we began,” one of the McClatchy study’s co-authors, Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, said.
“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.”
The causes of the problem are no mystery to sociologists and political scientists.
The share of national income going to corporate profits has far outstripped the share going to wages and salaries.
Manufacturing jobs with benefits and union protection have vanished and been supplanted by low-wage, low-security service-sector work.
The richest fifth of US households enjoys more than 50 per cent of the national income, while the poorest fifth gets by on an estimated 3.5 per cent.