America's Poor

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The numbers came out last Friday, that’s the day of the week when organizations release bad news that they hope will disappear quickly. This, is the Census Bureau’s new tally of America’s poor: 34.6 million people at or below the poverty line in 2002. That’s 1.7 million more than the year before, and the second year in a row that the numbers have gone up.

For single people under 65, we’re talking about scraping by on less than ten thousand dollars a year. Beyond the numbers, though, are the faces. Single mothers and minority groups are still too well represented. And suddenly, so are suburban families, married couples and senior citizens. No one, it seems, is immune from rising unemployment and falling wages.


Cynthia Duncan, Director of Community and Resource Development, Ford Foundation, and author, “Worlds Apart: Why Poverty Persists in Rural America”

Katherine Newman, Dean of Social Science, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and author, “No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City”