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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Amid a still struggling economy, more people in America fell below the poverty line last year, according to new census data released Tuesday. The nation's poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, its highest level since 1993. In 2009, 14.3% of people in America were living in poverty.
This figure is based on purchasing power parity ( PPP ), which basically suggests that prices of goods in countries tend to equate under floating exchange rates and therefore people would be able to purchase the same quantity of goods in any country for a given sum of money. That is, the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Hence if a poor person in a poor country living on a dollar a day moved to the U.S. with no changes to their income, they would still be living on a dollar a day. The new poverty line of $1.25 a day was recently announced by the World Bank (in 2008).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty than they have ever measured before. In 2010, we were told that the economy was recovering, but the truth is that the number of the "very poor" soared to heights never seen previously. Back in 1993 and back in 2009, the rate of extreme poverty was just over 6 percent, and that represented the worst numbers on record. But in 2010, the rate of extreme poverty hit a whopping 6.7 percent. That means that one out of every 15 Americans is now considered to be "very poor".
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Back in 2006, I wrote this column about poverty, and a reader recently emailed and asked me to repost it. So here it is, fresh from 5 years ago! I still like it, too: With the new government now in place, the demands are sure to start coming soon that Harper tackle the persistent problem of poverty. And there’s no dearth of suggestions of how to “make poverty history”: increase the minimum wage, increase welfare payments, create more make work projects, and let’s get more rent control.
We know more about poverty in the 19th century than in previous ages because, for the first time, people did accurate surveys and they made detailed descriptions of the lives of the poor. We also have photographs and they tell a harrowing story. The worst thing about poverty in the 19th century was the callous attitude of many Victorians. They were great believers in 'self-help'.