Gap Between Rich and Poor Growing in U.S.

by: David Hunkar

The latest poverty data available from the Census Bureau is for the year 2007. The official poverty rate in the US was 12.5 % in 2007. Put another way, 37.3 million people were living in poverty, up from 36.5 million the previous year.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The 37.3 millions does not include people in institutional group quarters (such as prisons or nursing homes), college dormitories, military barracks and living situations without conventional housing (and who are not in shelters). The poverty threshold in 2007 for a couple with two children was $21,027.

The above chart shows that the number of people in poverty has been rising since 2000. The latest population count of the US was 307 million. With the unemployment rate at 9.4% in July and household debt at high levels, more people may be pushed into poverty.

When we compare the rising poverty levels to the income distribution, the correlation is interesting. As the charts below clearly show, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.



Source: Striking It Richer. The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States, by Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley

In the past few years, the wealth and income inequality in the US has risen to record levels. During the 2000 presidential campaign in New York, gazing at the diamond-studded $800-a-plate crowd, Presidential candidate George W. Bush commented:

“This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores,” quipped the GOP standard-bearer. “Some people call you the elite; I call you my base.”