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August 29, 2007
US Poverty Rate Declines
The number of people who live below the poverty line dropped significantly in 2006 according to the US Census Bureau:
The nation's poverty rate was 12.3 percent in 2006, down from 12.6 percent a year before, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday."Some advocates" include Democrat Charlie Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who said "Income remains lower than it was six years ago, poverty is higher, and the number of Americans without health insurance continues to grow."
Median household income increased slightly, to $48,200. The numbers provided some good economic news at a time when financial markets have been rattled by a slumping housing market. But they were tempered by an increase in the number of Americans without health insurance, from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47 million last year.
Some advocates said the numbers were evidence of an uneven economy that is leaving many Americans behind.
Considering the 2000-2003 recession associated with the bursting of the dot com bubble and the tragedy of 9/11, other, more sober minded analysts see things a little differently:
Douglas Besharov, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said there is a lot of good news in the numbers. The higher number of Americans without health insurance increased calls from Democrats for more statist control of the health care system. President Bush countered that managing health care costs and lowering premiums would be a better idea.
"We're looking at a situation where unemployment was down, and it was down for single mothers, who make up a substantial portion of the people in poverty," Besharov said. "We need a good economy. That's not all we need, but we should not complain when it helps lower poverty."
That debate will spill over into the presidential campaign. But for the moment, good news on the poverty level is welcome.