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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Quarter of U.S. Hispanics Live in Poverty, Census Says

WASHINGTON – One in every four U.S. Hispanics lives in poverty, a total of 12.4 million people, according to Census data from last year published on Thursday.

The figure for the number of Hispanics living below the poverty line – less than $22,000 a year for a family of four – makes up part of a broad report entitled “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States” based on information from the “2010 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.”

In 2009, a total of 43.6 million U.S. citizens lived in poverty, about one in seven, the largest figure registered since 1959, the first year for which figures are available.

Among Hispanics, the proportion of poor people rose from 23.2 percent to 25.3 percent in 2009, when 1.4 million Latinos more slipped below the poverty line.

Compared with the other demographic groups, only African Americans exceeded that percentage, with 25.8 percent living in poverty, while among non-Hispanic whites, just 9.4 percent lived below the poverty line.

But the data contained in the report also show that, despite the rise in poverty, Hispanic households increased their average income in 2009 by 0.7 percent to $38,039 a year.

For Georgetown University demographic expert Harry Holzer, this is an “interesting contradiction” that could be explained by “the slight decline in immigration in recent years” and by another factor that the report does not mention.

“We musn’t forget that the number of Hispanic homes has fallen after the (economic) crisis such that there is an important group that remains uncounted in terms of income by household,” he told Efe.

Ostensibly, if the number of households falls, say by a grown and working child moving back in with his or her parents, then the child’s income would now be added to the parents’ household income rather than continue to be counted separately. Thus, one household with a larger income would be counted in the Census data rather than two households with smaller incomes, resulting in a rise in the average household income.

Dozens of experts and Latino groups reacted to the Census report by noting the importance of approving several bills that remain stalled in Congress to improve things, including the local employment creation bill sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), which, Holzer says, would create 1 million jobs.

The National Council of La Raza in a communique reiterated its support for measures like expanding the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as the creation of green jobs.

Another of the big problems depicted in the report is the growing number of people without medical insurance coverage in the United States, a figure that increased in 2009 from 46.3 million to 50.7 million, and at last tally totals 16.7 percent of the population.

Among Hispanics, more than 15.8 million people, or 32.4 percent of the total, lacked health insurance last year, when President Barack Obama’s health care reform was still being debated in Congress.

The most vulnerable age group to the increase in poverty is that of U.S. Hispanic children, of whom 33.1 percent live below the poverty line, while 21.4 percent of the Latino adult population and 18.3 percent of elderly Hispanics are poor.

In total, in the United States 15.5 million people under 18 years of age live in poverty, almost one in every five, according to the data. EFE

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