Despite Economic Growth,
Poor Are Getting Poorer
A strong showing in the stock market and escalating corporate profits are
no answer for poverty. Economic growth in the 1990s has made a few people rich and left
most Americans just getting by or worse.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
points out that although the unemployment rate for 1997 hit its lowest level in 24 years,
the poverty rate was at about the same level as it was between 1987 and 1989, when the
jobless rate was higher. Census data shows that 13.3 percent of Americans lived in poverty
in 1997, down slightly from 13.7 percent in 1996.
On average, poor families became poorer in 1997 probably due (at
least in part) to the weakening of safety net programs.
BOTTOM 60% AT OR BELOW 1989 LEVEL
Only for the top two-fifths of the population was the average household
income greater in 1997 than in 1989. For the rest of the population the average income was
at or below the 1989 level, after adjusting for inflation. The biggest income gains went
to the five percent of households with the highest incomes. The top 20 percent of
households received almost as much (49.4 percent) as the other 80 percent (49.6 percent).
Union organizing, and federal government intervention, remain crucial to
eliminating poverty and promoting social equality.