Number of Poor Americans On the Rise, Census Reports

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WASHINGTON--The number of poor Americans rose in 1992 for the third-straight year, and children continue to be the poorest group, the Census Bureau reported last week.

Data drawn from the Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation show that the poverty rate of 14.5 percent did not rise significantly between 1991 and 1992. But it is the highest rate recorded since 1983.

The number of poor people counted--36.9 million--is the highest since 1962, although the poverty rate relative to the total population was much higher then, at 21 percent.

The data also show that the Northeast was the only region where median household income fell significantly between 1991 and 1992, dropping by 3.7 percent. But the South had the highest poverty rate and the lowest median household income.

The poverty threshold for a family of four was set at $14,335 for 1992. The poverty rate was 33.3 percent for blacks, 29.3 percent for Hispanics, 12.5 percent for Asian-Americans, and 11.6 percent for whites.

Children Hardest Hit

The poverty rate for children under 18 was 21.9 percent--the highest recorded since 1983--and 25 percent of children under 6 were poor. Two-thirds of children under 6 living in families headed by a female were poor, as were nearly 75 percent of those in families headed by an African-American woman.

Children made up 40 percent of the nation's poor, and families with children made up four-fifths of all poor families.

Wendall E. Primus, a deputy assistant secretary for human services at the Health and Human Services Department, suggested that the poverty rate would have been higher after the 1990-1991 recession if government aid had been cut as much as it was during the recession of the early 1980's. While the share of poor children is still "inordinately high,'' he said, "the safety net has worked better'' this time.

But Judith Jones, the director of the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University, said the study "reaffirms'' that "we don't see poverty rates among young children going down significantly'' and underscores the urgent need to improve children's services.

The Census Bureau also said the number of Americans with no health insurance rose by 2 million between 1991 and 1992, to 37.4 million.

The data come from three reports: "Poverty in the United States: 1992,'' "Money Income of Households, Families, and Persons in the United States: 1992,'' and "Measuring the Effect of Benefits and Taxes on Income and Poverty: 1992.'' For more information, contact Customer Services, Data User Services Division, Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C. 20233; (301) 763-4100.

Vol. 13, Issue 06

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