by Tammy Hart

Strained by recession, war, and our recent natural disasters, Americans are struggling with many worries including how to correct our current situation with the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. Experts debate about the whether or not globalization and free trade are the cause of this growing issue but many would agree that the first step in addressing poverty in our country is to educate ourselves to better understand why poverty exists.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines poor families as those with cash incomes of less than $14,680 a year for a family of three – or $18,810 for a family of four.

During the year 2000:

•  The number of people in poverty increased by 4.3 million.

•  The median income dropped by $1,535 after adjustment for inflation.

•  The number of people with no health insurance increased by 5.2 million.

During the year 2003:

•  The average poor family had an income of $8,858, or $738.00 per month.

•  Those that were living in extreme poverty became poorer on average.

•  The number of Americans in this class reached the highest level on record since data first became available in 1975.

•  The amount by which poor people’s incomes fell below the poverty line was greater than any other year since record keeping began.

During the year 2004:

•  The poverty rate among children jumped to its highest level in 10 years.

•  Over 14.4 million living on incomes that are less than ½ of the poverty threshold

•  For the first time in fifty years, there has been an increase in poverty.


In a nation of nearly 300 million people, there are currently 37 million people living below the poverty line which is in increase of more than a million from 2004.

When Lyndon B. Johnson declared “war on poverty” during the 1960’s programs such as Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, Food stamps, were all created and implemented. These programs did reduce poverty and increase standards of living for many, but today it may be time to make another declaration. After a decade of improvement in the 1990s, poverty in America is actually getting worse.

I think Maya Angelou said it best…”History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”