Economic growth brings decline in American poverty

U.S. household income increased for the fifth straight year in 1999 and the percentage of households living in poverty dropped to the lowest point in more than two decades, according to a report presented by the Census Bureau yesterday.

In fact, the report consisted almost entirely of one piece of good news after another.

  • Median household income rose by 2.7 percent last year to $40,816 from $39,744 in 1998 – with all racial and ethnic groups sharing in the gain.

  • The proportion of those living below the poverty line – defined as a household income of $17,029 for a family of four – dropped last year to 11.8 percent of the population from 12.7 percent in 1998.

  • Median income for African-American households hit $27,910, while Hispanic households reached $30,735 and non-Hispanic white households registered $44,366 – the highest levels ever recorded.

  • Households in the bottom fifth of the income scale saw their earnings rise by 5.4 percent – the largest gain of any quintile.

    The number of people living in extreme poverty – those having incomes that are less than 50 percent of the official poverty line – dropped to 4.6 percent of the U.S. population, from 5.1 percent.

    More than 80 percent of the 2.2 million households that moved above the poverty line last year lived in the inner cities. No state showed a statistically significant rise in poverty.

    The data do not factor in capital gains earnings on the sale of stocks and property.

    Source: Steven V. Holmes, Incomes Up and Poverty Is Down, Data Show, New York Times, September 27, 2000.

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