[click either chart for a larger view]
The United States is increasingly becoming a country of extreme poverty.
According to Evan Soltas [ht: db], the percentage of Americans in extreme poverty—defined as receiving less than one half of the federal poverty threshold—has increased by 50 percent in the past decade. 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.
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.
And, remember, U.S. poverty is defined in absolute terms (e.g., the poverty threshold for a family of four is $23,050 in 2012) as against the relative poverty standard used in other countries (e.g., in the European Union, the poverty line is defined as 60 percent of the population’s median income). Thus, for example, since median household income in the United States was $45,800 in 2010, the EU-comparable relative poverty line would have been $27,480.
By either measure, the United States is forcing a larger and larger portion of its population to attempting to survive in conditions of extreme poverty.