RSN April 14 Fundraising
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Evan Soltas breaks down census figures showing that since 2000, the number of people living in extreme poverty, with incomes totaling less than half of the federal poverty line , has increased 50 percent, rising most dramatically after the 2008 recession began.

Homeless mother and child. (photo: unknown)
Homeless mother and child. (photo: unknown)

Extreme Poverty Up 50% Since 2000

By Evan Soltas, Evan Soltas' Blog

25 June 12


or the purpose of our analysis here, an individual as "extremely poor" if he or she resides in a family unit whose income is less than half of the federal poverty threshold. To give you a sense of what that means, the awful extremity of extreme poverty: a single person under 65 must have made less than $5,851, and a family of four must have made less than $11,509. (In my opinion, it is likely that for the majority of the extreme poor, taxable income is zero.)

Recessions, in fact, appear to affect disproportionately the extreme poor, rather than those closer to the federal poverty threshold or the "near poor," those whose income is less than twice the federal poverty threshold.

Consider this: in 2010, 6.7 percent of Americans were among the extreme poor, as compared to 5.2 percent in 2007 and 4.5 percent in 2000. That's a 50 percent increase in the fraction of extremely poor individuals - the greatest increase, by far, of any income group relative to the poverty threshold.

The unambiguous statistical trend since 2000 has been large increases in the fraction of Americans at the extreme end of poverty, with little to no change in the fraction of Americans considered "near poor." The poor, in other words, are getting poorer - or more precisely, poverty in America is becoming an increasingly extreme and unequal phenomenon.

Observe, for example, that since 2008, the percentages of individuals making between one-half and three-fourths of the poverty threshold, and between three-fourths and up to the threshold, have seen the second and third largest growth since 2000 - 27 percent and 21 percent respectively. The former has increased from 3 percent of Americans to 3.8 percent, the latter from 3.8 percent to 4.6 percent. Meanwhile, the fraction of near-poor individuals has remained roughly stable in the 18 percent range since 2000.

If you're an economist, you might notice that the statistical behavior of the two most extreme poor groups in the first graph - less than half of the threshold, and between half and three-fourths of it - is dramatically different from the other income brackets. They appear highly sensitive to recession, rising as sharply as a fraction of the population during the recessions of 1981, 1990, 2000, and 2008. All other poverty-threshold groups show little to no cyclical behavior.



We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

+18 # freeportguy 2012-06-25 06:22
For Republicans, that is not enough: this needs to be joined by making unions illegal across the board, decrease the educated work force AND repeal of the minimum wage law in order to send the work force into total submission so "job creators" can create MILLIONS of jobs at $1/hr, and have total control over who gets a job, who keeps it and who loses it. That way, obedience will be ABSOLUTE! Monty Burns would be PROUD!
+6 # John Locke 2012-06-25 09:35
freeportguy: I agree with everything but the $1.00 an hour. In Chine they get $20.00 a week assuming a 40 hour work week that would be $0.50 an hour, don't forget we must be more competitive with China and $1.00 will still be too much!
+2 # 666 2012-06-27 04:13
But if americans were paid the same as chinese laborers, just think how much walmart etc would save on shipping costs! More jobs for americans, and they could lower prices and make more profit!
+14 # Susan1989 2012-06-25 08:30
Unfortunately our country is deteriorating into a system where more and more people have limited control over their destiny and a very small elite group hold all the power.
+5 # Gevurah 2012-06-25 17:06
Thou hast said it - in a nutshell.

The real horror is that the people who could change things for the better -- aka
Congress (the Best Little Whorehouse in Washington) -- are the very ones that are
being paid off by Our Corporate Masters to retain and intensify the status quo.
+12 # jwb110 2012-06-25 08:41
This is the stuff of violent revolution. The GOP/TP have set this country up for a major Marxist revolt. It won't be pretty when a great number of citizens have nothing more to loose and start risk their live for just the bread, not the circuses.
+14 # VoiceofReason613 2012-06-25 08:48
While considering today's terrible economic conditions, we should think of the following:

1. Mitt Romney and other Republicans are promoting policies similar to or often worse than those that had such disastrous results during the Bush administration, including converting a three-year major surplus, which was on track to completely eliminate the total federal debt, into a major deficit, creating very few net jobs (none in the private sector), and leaving the country on the brink of a depression, with an average of 750,000 jobs being lost during its last three months.

2. Republicans have obstructed efforts to get our country out of the tremendous ditch they left us in by voting no on and sometimes filibustering many Democratic proposals, some of which they previously supported and sometimes even co-sponsored. Hence, it is not surprising that a recent poll showed that 49% of Americans believe that Republican Congress members are purposely sabotaging the U.S. economy in order to defeat Obama and other Democrats, while only 40% disagree.

3.. Republicans support continued tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and highly profitable corporations, while basic social services that middle class and poor people depend on are being cut and teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and others are losing their jobs.

4. Republican legislators have voted against providing funds to save jobs of teachers, police officers, and fire fighters.
+2 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-06-25 09:34
Wait a minute!
Didn't I just read your copied / pasted comment on the page about the nuns?
-16 # jimattrell 2012-06-25 08:52
Gee this nicely coincides with the Obama presidency... Puts the legacy where it belongs as more and more of the middle class enter the poverty arena and wonder when "hope and change" will end and normalcy return...
+7 # BradFromSalem 2012-06-25 09:19

Any solutions, ideas, positive thinking? The correlation as the article points out is attached recessions. I attach it to Bush because, it was the policies under his administration the initiated the recession. You can point out that Obama has not ended the Recession, but you cannot blame him for starting it. And when you do blame Obama, remember, if you hit the batter with pitch, don't go around saying he sucks because he didn't hit a home run. So far the righties have hit Obama with so many pitches that the umpires (us) should throw the Righties (Republicans) out of the game (elections).
+7 # BradFromSalem 2012-06-25 08:54
But the solution is very simple. The extremely poor can almost totally be classified as folks getting minimum wage. Raise the minimum wage is a good first step. In theory they should also have Medicaid (or is Medicare?), make it so. How? Easy give everyone an electronic SS card instead of the crappy piece of cardboard. SS knows how much income you get, so if your projected annual income falls below the Medicaid threshold, their card will automatically allow them benefits. The same card can be used for rent subsidies, food stamps, etc.

Once we have it fixed or at least so that the extremely poor are provided for, can we please blame Bush? Please?
+11 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-06-25 09:35
I doubt that the extremely poor get even the minimum wage.
+3 # BradFromSalem 2012-06-25 10:05
Maybe, but to make my statement stronger we should move toward a living wage as the minimum. And enforce that as a much higher priority than worrying about pot smokers, illegal aliens, and having sex in your car at the local lover's lane.
+4 # panhead49 2012-06-25 11:34
Quoting Granny Weatherwax:
I doubt that the extremely poor get even the minimum wage.

You nailed it Granny. I know several teenagers in the neighborhood that tried working at Subway - EVERY paycheck was shorted by one or two hours. And these kids aren't working so as to get the latest I-whatever, they are working to help keep the family in their home and food on the table. Most have even given up on the hope of community college as CA is beyond broke. I think the elite have forgotten that someone with nothing has nothing to lose.
+1 # Glen 2012-06-25 12:28
Liberal, you are also going to have to blame Clinton and every president since Reagan. That is when the country began the Great Decline. Remember NAFTA? CAFTA? Jobs and towns and factories began disappearing in the late eighties, early nineties. Bush just kicked the can over the ledge of the abyss. Obama is keeping with that pattern.
+1 # BradFromSalem 2012-06-25 13:02
I don't disagree, BUT..

The Recession started under Bush, that was my only point. To say that Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Ford , & Clinton laid the groundwork is all true, but not the point. Lets see where Obama ends up before condemning him to the same historical pile.
0 # Glen 2012-06-26 03:50
I do see your point, also, but one must keep in mind that this has been building, rather than being a sudden occurrence. The Recession made things worse and stimulated folks to do their research, revealing the awful truth.

The poor have been hidden for so long that citizens often aren't even aware of how bad it has been for millions of people.
+5 # reiverpacific 2012-06-25 10:03
Methinks that the "Federal Poverty Line" should be redefined also -I mean, when is it ever revised and what is it really based on? The work of well-paid economists and demographers?
And guess who will suffer from all these proposed and already in place "Austerity" measures?
The main thing that is being manipulated by these graph-makers and formulators is reality.
I can only state that in spite of my own best and often creative efforts to climb back out of the "New poor" status, I've never felt such hopelessness and blockage around me.
I'm a fighter but the constant striving is exhausting and we are not by any means as poor as the people that this article addresses.
Yet the words "Billions" and "Trillions" are now part of the commonly thrust-upon-us dialogue by the owner media as if we are all part of these swollen streams of alleged plenty!
0 # 666 2012-06-27 04:23
The "minimum wage" concept was defined by classical (English) economists in the late 18th & early 19th centuries (see especially Ricardo & Malthus). The "minimum wage" simply means "what is the minimum we can pay one person for one day so that s/he will not completely starve to death and show up at the factory gates on time tomorrow and be reasonably productive".

People screaming about the minimum wage are missing point: Minimum wage is a slave wage. A Living Wage is basic to the economy (but does not insure even such basics as health care, home ownership, and family). The "American Dream" (gone for good??) requires more than that.
+8 # Reasoner 2012-06-25 10:59
Still the Republicons scream their taxes are too high and then demonize these poor people for not paying taxes.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.