NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Census Report on Poverty in 2002

September 29, 2003

The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.7 million last year, and the median household income declined by 1.1 percent, the Census Bureau reports. However, the proportion of children and the elderly in poverty did not rise significantly.

According to data from the Census Bureau's annual Current Population Survey:

  • The official poverty rate rose to 12.1 percent in 2002 from 11.7 percent the year before, bringing to total number of people living below the poverty line to 34.6 million.
  • The median household earned income fell $500 over the same period to $42,400.
  • Per capita income declined by 1.8 in 2002 to $22,794, the first decline since 1991.
  • The Midwest was the only area of the country where poverty rates increased significantly, rising to 10.3 percent from 9.4 percent a year earlier. Real median income there declined 2 percent.
  • Among racial groups, poverty increased the most among African-Americans, rising to 24.1 percent from 22.7 percent a year earlier. Median income for blacks fell 3 percent.
  • Rates of poverty did not change significantly from 2001 for those under age 18 and over age 65, remaining at 16.7 percent for children (compared with a 1993 high of 22.7 percent) and 10.4 percent for senior citizens.

The rise in poverty rates over the last two years has not been as severe as in the aftermath of past recessions, said Robert E. Rector, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation. "This shows that this has been a shallow recession that has been mild in its impact, and it also shows the positive impact of welfare reform which has kept more women in the work force."

Source: Lynette Clemetson, "More Americans in Poverty in 2002, Census Study Says," New York Times, September 27, 2003.

For Census report


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