Source: AP / The Huffington PostWashington – The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession.
The top-earning 20 percent of Americans – those making more than $100,000 each year – received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.
A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations.
“Income inequality is rising, and if we took into account tax data, it would be even more,” said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in poverty. “More than other countries, we have a very unequal income distribution where compensation goes to the top in a winner-takes-all economy.”
Congresswoman Barbra Lee, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus responds to the report saying, “Today’s release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey is another painful reminder that too many Americans are suffering while the economy remains sluggish. According to the report, the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans received 49.4 percent of all income, compared to 3.4 percent combined for all Americans living in poverty, marking the greatest level of disparity since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967.”
“These figures underscore the argument that members of the Congressional Black Caucus have made for more than two years, that the economic downturn has hit some communities much harder than others.”
“The sluggish pace of the recovery has left too many Americans behind. It is disheartening to see that while the incomes of those making more than $180,000 annually actually rose during the recession, working families earning near the median income of $50,000, watched their incomes slide.”
“Prosperity and opportunity are hallmarks of the American Dream, which unfortunately are fast becoming the exclusive province of those with wealth and means. There are some in Congress who are more concerned with giving tax cuts to the wealthy and protecting tax loopholes for corporations and oil companies as they continue to ignore the pressing needs of unemployed and underemployed Americans at the margins of our economy.”