Ranks of the "Poorest Poor" Reach New High, and Poverty Spreads to the Suburbs

Today the AP reports on new census data showing that a record number of Americans -- 1 in 15 -- are now counted among the ranks of the "poorest poor," or those who live on less than $5,570 annually for an individual or $11,157 for a family of four.

Let those numbers sink in for a moment. $5,570 to live on. For a year. In America. And 1-in-15 Americans is doing just that.

It's a dire situation if there ever was one. Here are more stats:

About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the official poverty level. Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty line. In 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $5,570 or less for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four.

That 6.7 percent share is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has maintained such records, surpassing previous highs in 2009 and 1993 of just over 6 percent.

Broken down by states, 40 states and the District of Columbia had increases in the poorest poor since 2007, and none saw decreases. The District of Columbia ranked highest at 10.7 percent, followed by Mississippi and New Mexico. Nevada had the biggest jump, rising from 4.6 percent to 7 percent.

The report notes that deep poverty is starting to spread out of inner-city areas and into the suburbs. Robert Moffitt, an economy professor at Johns Hopkins University, told the AP that "There now really is no unaffected group, except maybe the very top income earners. Recessions are supposed to be temporary, and when it's over, everything returns to where it was before. But the worry now is that the downturn -- which will end eventually -- will have long-lasting effects on families who lose jobs, become worse off and can't recover."

More from the AP here.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at November 3, 2011, 7:26am

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