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It's so easy for some to overlook but U.S. poverty rate hugely high

By Dian Vujovich

Wander along Worth Avenue, Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue and you’d be hard-pressed to even think America has a soaring poverty rate. But it does.

Whether high-enders want to acknowledge it or not our poverty rate has been climbing for the past few years, according to the Census Bureau. Figures just published show that in 2010 the poverty rate hit 15.1 percent. That’s the highest rate since 1993 and up from 14.3 percent a year earlier (2009). Since 2007, the rate has moved from 12.5 percent to the most recent 2010 figures.

That 2010 rate of 15.1 percentage means 46.2 million people are living in poverty and represents the largest number of people since the rate began being published 52 years ago.

As you might guess, the way the Census Bureau calculates the poverty rate isn’t simple. It requires taking some figures from here, others from there, counting family members, not counting unrelated individuals in a household under the age of 15, etc. etc. But the end result looks like this: If total family income is less than the threshold appropriate for that family, that family is considered living in poverty.

In other words, if you’re paying the gardener who has a non-working wife and two kids, less than about $425 a week, that tender of your grounds is living in poverty.

A family of four is considered poor if their annual cash income before taxes is $22,314 or less; for a family of two poor begins at $14,218 or less; and for an individual, $11,139.

This ought to come as no surprise given that our median income levels have been stagnant or falling for years. According to a CNN Money report:” Today people make only 11 percent more than they did in 1980 while consumer prices have risen about 150 percent.”

If I were a blaming person and wanted to point my figure at only one group to blame our growing poverty rate and stagnant wage levels on, I’d have to begin with corporate America. Typically guys and gals at the upper-middle and top levels haven’t had to deal with stagnant wages.

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