Poverty Rises While Income Drops, Census Bureau Says; Numbers 'Reflect the Effect' of Recession in 2001

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Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The poverty level rose and median household income dipped for a second year in a row last year, new U.S. Census Bureau data show.

The new figures "reflect the effect" of the 2001 recession and are similar in scope to those seen after previous recessions, said Daniel Weinberg, chief of the bureau's division of housing and household economic statistics.

The poverty rate for 2002 was 12.1 percent, up from 11.7 percent in 2001, the bureau said yesterday in its annual poverty and income reports.

The number of people living in poverty rose 1.7 million from 32.9 million to 34.6 million. The poverty threshold for a family of four in 2002 was $18,392.

Median household income fell $491, from $42,900 in 2001 to $42,409 last year.

Republicans credited the 1996 welfare law for raising women's earnings and preventing more children from falling into poverty.

The 2002 child poverty rate of 16.7 percent was statistically unchanged from 16.3 percent in 2001, noted Rep. Wally Herger, California Republican.

Census data also show that median earnings for women who work full time rose 11.6 percent in 2002, said Mr. Herger. This is significantly faster than the 7.5 percent rise in earnings for men who work full time.

Moreover, female-headed households with no husband present - a group that represents many welfare recipients - saw their median real money income increase from $28,590 in 2001 to $29,001 in 2002, said Mr. Herger.

However, Democrats and antipoverty groups seized the opportunity to denounce Bush administration policies. …