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POVERTY IN THE USA

"The ranks of low-wage working families increased by 350,000 between 2002 and 2006, raising their numbers to nearly 9.6 million, or more than one in four of the nation's working families with children. The report by the Working Poor Families Project, an advocacy group that analyzed census data, defined low-wage families as those earning less than double the poverty rate. For a family of four, that would have been an annual income of $41,228 or less in 2006. The report's author, Brandon G. Roberts, attributed the increase to the growth in low-paying jobs, from health-care aides to cashiers, that form an increasing share of the nation's service-based economy. Many of those families struggle to pay for basics, such as health care, food and housing, a battle that Roberts said has grown more acute in the past two years as the economy has stagnated. "The stark reality is that too many American families have been in economic crisis long before this year," said Roberts, director of the non-partisan Working Poor Families Project, which advocates for state policies to improve the lives of low-income working families. "Even before this year's economic crisis, the conditions for working families were getting worse, not better." The report adds to the growing body of data illustrating that the dynamics of the modern economy have been unkind to many working Americans. Even as the economy grew at a generally robust pace from 2002 to 2006, fewer jobs were created than in previous economic expansions. And some 4.7 million of the jobs that were created paid salaries that would leave a family of four in poverty, according to the report. Overall, the report said, more than one in five jobs in 2006 paid poverty-level wages." (Washington Post, 15 October) RD

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