The younger version of me thinks fun! Something wacky and active to burn off all that turkey and pumpkin pie - yeah! The older version of me was happily avoiding crowds with blow-out sales online.
But the Black Friday craziness is in part evidence of the large and growing wealth divide in America. As one NYT story noted, a family waiting in line at Toys “R” Us on Thursday night was there to take advantage of big savings on diapers.
Much has been written lately about income disparity and the strains on poor and working-class Americans.
So what is the state of poverty in the United States?
Recently the Census issued two data points--the official poverty count, and another new report that takes into account programs like food stamps (benefits), the rising cost of living, and taxes (expenses)--all factors that alter the official number. Federal program budgets are based on the “official” number.
That said, while the insights into who is most affected by poverty is different between theofficial report and the “supplemental” report, the overall poverty rate is very similar in both cases: between 15-16% of the population, up about 1% between 2009 and 2010.
Some interesting stats:
- Official poverty count: 46.2 million; Supplemental: 49.1 million
- The official poverty level today is $22,350 for a family of four (see Census levels by household size).
- The number of Americans on food stamps is 45 million, a record high.
- The median U.S. income is $49,445 (third year it dropped, at 1996 levels--adjusted for inflation)
- 5.9 million people between the ages of 25 and 34 are living with their parents (see “doubled-up" statistics)
As the biggest holiday shopping season of the year kicks off, I’m not trying to be the Grinch by talking about the poverty rate. A friend of mine once told me that writing a newsletter about the news is tough because the news is often so depressing. And he’s right. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it.