The US Census Bureau has released some recent data on the rate of poverty in America, and to no one surprise, the results are quite grim:
In total, more than 15% of the population lived in poverty in 2010, the highest percentage since 1993, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. To put that in perspective, that means more than 46 million people fell below the poverty line, defined as $22,314 for a family of four. If you factor in the income spent on expenses like medical costs, child care and mortgage payments, the number of Americans whose remaining income falls below the poverty line is closer to 50 million, or roughly 16% of the population.
As severe as this sounds, some regions in the U.S. are much worse off. In November, the census released a breakdown of the poverty rate in every county in the U.S. in 2010, which showed dozens of counties where more than a third of the population lives in poverty and a handful whose overall poverty rates were closer to 50%.
The majority of these countries are composed of minorities, namely African-Americans and Native Americans. Indeed, contrary to popular belief, the latter group is the most impoverished minority in the United States. Many Indian reservations have been described as having a rate of development equal to third world countries, including a lack of plumbing, sanitation infrastructure, or arable land.
But given the psychological and geographic distance that Native Americans have from the rest of the country — and the pervasive myths about them being non-taxpayers rolling in casino money — this is hardly acknowledged, let alone addressed. If close to 20% of the population being impoverished doesn’t seem to garner much political or public agitation, what more will it take?