Income and Poverty

Trends show blacks are improving economically

African Americans, along with the rest of America, are seeing improvements in poverty and income statistics. In 1999, the poverty rate for African Americans dropped to 23.6%, the lowest for blacks ever recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. This amounts to about 700,000 fewer statistically poor African Americans in 1999 (8.4 million) than in 1998 (9.1 million). In 1997, there were 9.1 million African Americans in poverty, or 26.5 % of the black population. This number was down from 29.3% in 1995.

The percentage of the total population living in poverty for 1999 was 11.8%, down from 13.1% in 1997. That number was 13.8% in 1995. Perhaps because African Americans are so disproportionately represented in poverty statistics, they account for 60% of the decline in the number of poor persons in the United States between 1996 and 1997, according to the Census Bureau.

African Americans also saw record rises in income in 1999. That year the median income for African American households rose to $27,910, the highest household income for blacks ever recorded by the Census Bureau. This number, however, pales in comparison to the median income for white Americans or all households, which was $42,504 and $40,816, respectively.

“Increases in income and declines in poverty were widespread in 1999,” says Dr. Daniel H. Weinberg, chief, Housing and Household Economic Statistics division, U.S. Census Bureau. Across the board, “Median household income adjusted for inflation increased 2.7%. This is the highest level we have ever measured.”

The Census Bureau’s findings show that as general income rises, people statistically move out of poverty. Therefore, says Bernadette Proctor, statistical assistant with the Census Bureau’s Poverty and Health Statistics branch, “we establish 45 different thresholds to measure real poverty. We adjust and upgrade the threshold based on the consumer price index, so a rise out of poverty is a real rise out of poverty.”

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


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