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The Faces of American Poverty

Children in America have higher poverty rates than adults, and people 65 and over have higher chronic poverty rates and lower exit rates than children or adults. (U.S. Census Bureau, Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Poverty 1996-1999, July 2003.)

The rate and number of children in America living in poverty increased in 2003, to 17.6 percent and 12.9 million children, up from 16.7 percent and 12.1 million in 2002. What’s more, children represented 35.9 percent of all the people in poverty – compared with 25.4 percent of the total population.

Children under the age of six have been particularly vulnerable to poverty. In 2003, the poverty rate for related children under six living in families increased to 19.8 percent, or 4.7 million children, up from 18.5 percent and 4.3 million in 2002. Yet, of children under six living in families with only a female householder – with no father present – more than one out of two, or 52.9 percent, were in poverty, more than five times the rate of their counterparts in married-couple families. (U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003, Current Population Reports, August 2003)

For Americans 18 to 64 years old, both the number in poverty and the poverty rate rose from 2002 to 2003 - from 18.9 million to 19.4 million, and from 10.6 percent to 10.8 percent, respectively. Remarkably, the number of elderly in poverty remained the same, at 3.6 million in 2003. (U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003, Current Population Reports, August 2003)

The number and rate of Asian Americans living in poverty rose the greatest among all groups, to 11.8 percent and 1.4 million, up from 10.1 percent and 1.2 million. Among Hispanics, the poverty rate remained unchanged at 22.5 percent in 2003 -- yet one out of every five Hispanics in America – 9.1 million people -- still live in poverty. And for African Americans, the poverty rate rose only slightly in 2003, to 24.4 percent, up from 24.1 percent. Still, nearly one out of every four African Americans lives in poverty, which is 8.8 million people. (U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003, Current Population Reports, August 2003)

In 2003, 7.6 million American families - 10 percent of all families - were in poverty, up from 7.2 million (9.6 percent) in 2002.(U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003, Current Population Reports, August 2003)


Copyright © 2004 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Please visit our website at www.povertyusa.org.



    





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