The number of Americans living in severe poverty was nearly 16 million people living on an individual income of less than $5,000 (£2,500) a year or a family income of less than $10,000, according to an analysis of 2005 official census data.
The analysis, by the McClatchy group of newspapers, showed that the number of people living in extreme poverty had grown by 26 per cent since 2000. Poverty as a whole has worsened, too, but the number of severe poor is growing 56 per cent faster than the overall segment of the population characterised as poor - about 37 million people in all according to the census data. That represents more than 10 per cent of the US population, which recently surpassed the 300 million mark.The numbers of severely poor have increased faster than any other segment of the population.
The causes of the problem are no mystery to sociologists and political scientists [ or socialists -aj ]. The share of national income going to corporate profits has far outstripped the share going to wages and salaries. Manufacturing jobs with benefits and union protection have vanished and been supplanted by low-wage, low-security service-sector work.
The richest fifth of US households enjoys more than 50 per cent of the national income, while the poorest fifth gets by on an estimated 3.5 per cent.
The average after-tax income of the top 1 per cent is 63 times larger than the average for the bottom 20 per cent - both because the rich have grown richer and also because the poor have grown poorer; about 19 per cent poorer since the late 1970s.
Every income group except for the top 20 per cent has lost ground in the past 30 years, regardless of whether the economy has boomed or bust .
United States poverty league: States with the most people in severe poverty
New York 1.2m
North Carolina 523,511
Source: US Census Bureau