Rich-poor gap expands in U.S. amid presidential campaign

Published: Friday, Sept. 14 2012 1:51 p.m. MDT

Overall median household income dropped while the divide between the rich and poor widened in 2011.

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Percent change in share of income distribution

Overall median household income dropped while the divide between the rich and poor widened in 2011, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The share of aggregate income for the country’s highest earners increased 1.6 percent, according to the report. Five percent of those in the highest bracket increased their share by 4.9 percent.

Those in the lowest quantile saw their share drop 1.2 percent, while the middle decreased by 1.9 percent.

The official poverty rate in the U.S. was 15 percent in 2011, with 46.2 million people struggling, according to the Census data.

Median income for all households in the U.S. fell 1.5 percent to $50,054.

“The gains from economic growth in 2011 were quite unevenly shared as household income fell in the middle and rose at the top,” Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, told Bloomberg.

The rift between the poor and rich put more pressure on candidates to address the issue while campaigning, according to Bloomberg.

“Weirdly, I think you’re going to see both sides take these numbers and suggest it’s evidence why ‘I should be elected,’” Steve Jarding, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former Democratic political consultant, told Bloomberg.

More than 13 percent of families were in poverty in 2011 compared to the 22.8 percent in single-person households.

A married household is more financially efficient than a single-person home, said Jacob Sybrowsky, a certified retirement counselor and the director of the personal financial planning programs at Utah Valley University.

“You have two people making investment decisions and budget considerations,” Sybrowksy, who is raising his 2-year-old daughter with his wife, said in a phone interview. “You have a check and balance system, which may lead to fewer mistakes and errors.”

Married households tend to have more assets in retirement than single-person homes, according to a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“A rather large fraction of the original single-person households have low income judged by the income poverty thresholds,” the Bureau's economists said in the study. “We find that 12.1 percent are below the poverty threshold and have no financial assets, and that 23 percent are below twice the income poverty line and have no financial assets.”

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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