The rich get richer, the poor get poorer

24th November 2011

The U.S. Census Bureau has looked into its categories for income, and discovered: “100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.”

Responding to a request for more data from The New York Times, the Bureau discovered that its old measures of poverty did not do an adequate job.  “There are more people struggling than the official numbers show,” commented the Bureau’s Chief Poverty Statistician.

The Times noted that “the findings . . . convey levels of economic stress sharply felt but until now hard to measure.” (See, “Older, Suburban and Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census.”)

The important point is that, apart from unemployment figures, it has been very hard to see the true extent of the impact of The Great Recession on the poor.  But more and more of the signs are adding up to a more complete picture.  Retail sales figures released last week show “the divide between hard-pressed and prosperous Americans remained a defining characteristic of the retail economy.”

The Chairman and CEO of Saks noted:  “I feel good about the luxury consumer.”  On the other hand, the Chairman and CEO of Walmart, noted: “Our customers are still feeling pressured to reduce expenses wherever they can.” “Referring to the Wal-Mart shopper’s dependence on paychecks and government-assistance payments rather than savings,” he added, “going forward we really would not expect anything different.” (See, Retailers See a Split in Behavior of Shoppers.”)

Far more disturbing is the growing evidence that this difference is hardening into a permanent gap among the communities in which we live.

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