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Census: 1.4 million more people in poverty


Washington – The nation’s rocky economy sent 1.4 million more people into poverty   last year, a Census Bureau survey found. Nearly half of the newly impoverished   were children.


Roughly 17.2 percent of children, or 12.2 million, lived in poverty in 2002,   up from 16.4 percent, or more than 11.5 million, in 2001, according to the American   Community Survey results released Wednesday.


Overall, 12.4 percent of the population, or nearly 34.8 million people, lived   in poverty in 2002, up from 12.1 percent, or 33.4 million, the previous year.


Median household income rose by $51, when accounting for inflation, to $43,057   after a similarly slight drop the previous year, when the nation was in recession   from March to November. Median income refers to the point at which half of households   earn more and half earn less.


The increases in poverty in 2002 were "not out of the ordinary" for   a recession, and less severe than expected, said Sheldon Danzinger, co-director   of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan.


"Results of the surveys have been consistent with what one would expect   during a down economic period," said Chuck Nelson, who helps oversee income   and poverty statistics for the Census Bureau.


But Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal-leaning Center for   Budget and Policy Priorities, blamed the increase in poverty on rising unemployment   and the government’s failure to promote more child tax credits for low-income   families and stronger unemployment insurance.


"People at the bottom tend to live paycheck to paycheck," Greenstein   said. "This underscores that in trying to stimulate the economy, we should   probably be doing more to assist low-income working families affected by the   downturn."


Threshold differs


The poverty threshold differs by the size and makeup of a household. For instance,   a person under 65 living alone in 2002 was considered in poverty if income was   $9,359 or less; for a household of three including one child, it was $14,480.


Robert Rector of the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, said   welfare reform helped keep more single mothers in the labor force than in previous   economic downturns, and therefore, out of poverty.


"So now coming out of the recession, in terms of child poverty, it’s a   very optimistic picture," Rector said. "In terms of the population   overall, it looks like an ordinary recession."


The American Community Survey is a questionnaire being tested by the Census   Bureau as a possible yearly replacement for the 53-question "long form"   sent out at the start of each decade.




















12.4 percent   of the population, or nearly 34.8 million people, lived in poverty in 2002,   up from 12.1 percent, or 33.4 million, the previous year  




The new survey covers about 62,000 households each month nationwide. The bureau   arrives at annual estimates by averaging survey results for each of the 12 months   in a year.


The official government statistics on income and poverty come from a separate,   more comprehensive survey that tracks economic status typically released in   late September.


A glimpse


But Nelson said American Community Survey results still provide a glimpse into   overall economic and demographic trends in the United States.


Among some other findings:


  • About 6.8 million households in 2002 received food stamps, up from 6.4   million in 2001.

  • The number of people employed in the manufacturing industry dropped by   almost 5 percent, or 830,000, to under 17.1 million. There were also slight   decreases in the retail trade, information, and transportation and warehousing   industries.

  • There was roughly a 4 percent rise in the number of people working in the   fields of education, health or social services to nearly 27.1 million. An   increase was also seen in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation   and food services category.


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