Two months before the election that will define our next four years and beyond, the Census Bureau released income figures for American households that were nothing less than staggering. Household incomes for middle income and working-age people dropped in 2011; the poverty rate reached a record high and the number of Americans living below $11,000 (50% below the poverty level) is at its highest since 1975.
Most concerning was that the gap between the richest and the rest of Americans continues to widen.
The Census Bureau report, “Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage,” was issued September 12. It showed that in 2011, the typical American household income, when adjusted for inflation, was less than it was in 1996. Those between 25 and 64-years old saw their income drop 13.4%. The official poverty rate defined by the Census Bureau ($23,021 for family of four) was 15% of the population of the United States — 46.2 million people.
During the same year the income for the highest-income Americans, who made $186,000 or above, rose 5.2%. Increases in income were most robust among members of the “top 1%.” A study released in October 2011 by the Congressional Budget Office (a nonpartisan federal agency that calculates income slightly differently than the Census office) supported the statistics. The CBO report stated that between 1979 and 2007, income for the top 1% grew by 275%.
So income disparity – the difference between rich and poor – grew in 2011. The Gini coefficient, a tool that measures inequality on a scale starting with 0 (for perfect inequality) to 1 (absolute equality), verified this. It says that in 2011 inequality grew by 1.6 %, from 0.470 to 0.477.
“At the very high end, people got a whole lot wealthier whereas income stagnated at other levels,” was the comment of Anne Mathias, research director for Guggenheim Securities LLC. “Fifty years ago, people talked about the other half, how the other half lived, and now we’re talking about the other 1 percent.”
A released recording shows Presidential candidate, Republican Mitt Romney saying on May 17 that 47% of Americans – those who support President Barack Obama – are “victims” who are “dependent upon government.” He added, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
He spoke at a fundraiser for which the per-plate price was $50,000. The Census Bureau report said real median household income declined by 1.5 percent last year, to $50,054 – an annual household income that could have bought one seat at that dinner.
The US Census Bureau is a nonpartisan federal agency and part of the US Department of Commerce.