First Person

Our Dark Underbelly: US Poverty

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For one of the richest countries in the world, we have a dark underbelly. It’s laid bare in a new report that measures the well-being of people rather than the size of our gross domestic product or the vitality of our stock market.

The truth that emerges from these 246 pages is that poverty—gauged by educational attainment, income, and longevity—stretches across this land of plenty. It’s not just a problem for developing countries; it’s a problem right here.

For anyone wondering about the way we really live in the US, “The Measure of America” serves as a call to action. The report takes tools long used to analyze developing countries and applies them here, creating a rank for each state, congressional district, and ethnic group in the US. You can view the complete report here.

In the meantime, these statistics from the study might get you thinking about the vast disparities that now define our country:

  • Out of total population of 305 million Americans, 80 million of them are unable to generate enough income to meet their basic needs.
  • The top 1 percent of households holds one-third of America’s wealth. The bottom 60 percent of households only holds 4 percent of all wealth.
  • The real value of minimum wage has decreased by 40 percent in the past 40 years.
  • In 2006, 4.5 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 were not in school, not working, and had not graduated from high school.
  • While the US will spend $230 million on health care in the next hour, 47 million Americans remain uninsured.
  • African Americans today have a lifespan shorter than the average American in the late 1970s. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+