New census figures indicate that average
household incomes in the United States are rising. But the country's
poverty level remains unchanged and the number of Americans without health
insurance is at a record high. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports on the uneven
influence certain international trends are having on American
New data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that average
American household income exceeds $46,000 a year -- an $11,000 increase
since 1967. Poverty levels over the same period have fluctuated, but
remain virtually unchanged since 2001. Currently, 12.6 percent of the
population -- about 37 million Americans -- are considered poor.
David Johnson of the U.S. Census Bureau says nearly 47 million
Americans have no health insurance. "The percentage of people covered by
employment-based insurance decreased from 59.8 percent to 59.5 percent in
2005 and the percentage of people with privately purchased plans also
declined. The increase in the overall uninsured rate can be attributed to
these two declines."
On average, men earn more than women in the United States.
Asian-Americans earn more than whites, followed by African-Americans and
Hispanics. The wealthiest counties in the United States are in the
Washington, D.C area. The poorest are in Texas along the Mexican border.
Nonetheless, economist Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution think
tank in Washington, D.C. notes that Latin American immigrants continue to
stream into the United States.
"They move to the United States, even if it brings them to a position
where they are below the poverty line in the United States. Still, for
those families [it] represents a tremendous improvement in their
well-being. It's a huge engine for progress in real incomes of these
Despite such improvement, low immigrant wages depress the overall U.S.
Census data also indicate a growing disparity between incomes of
Americans at the top and bottom quintiles, or 20 percent, of the population.
David Johnson of the Census Bureau explains. "The income for households in
the top quintile represents about half of the total income for the nation,
while income for those households at the bottom quintile accounts for only
Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless says the growing wage gap
between poor and wealthy Americans can be attributed in part to
globalization and the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas. He says this is
shifting more of the national income from workers to employers.
"The availability of alternative places to produce things -- both goods
and services in other countries, where wages are much lower, benefits are
much less costly -- does increase the bargaining power of employers
compared with workers," says Burtless.
Politicians in both major U.S. political parties claim the statistics
support their economic policies. Democrats say the census report confirms
that most working families are not moving ahead financially. Republicans
say the figures indicate low unemployment, rising wages and more American
jobs than ever before.