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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 August 2005, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
US poverty rate continues to rise
Homeless person on street
Poverty levels have risen for the last four years
The number of people classed as poor in the US has increased - despite strong economic growth, say official figures.

An extra 1.1 million Americans dropped below the poverty line last year, according to the US Census Bureau.

There were 37 million people living in poverty in 2004, or 12.7% of the population, up from 12.5% in 2003.

The report said non-Hispanic whites were the only ethnic group to experience an increase in poverty as well as a drop in income.

Economic lag

Asians were the only ethnic group to show a decline in poverty in 2004 compared with the previous year, while poverty among the elderly also fell.

It rose only for non-Hispanic whites, from 8.2 % in 2003 to 8.6 % over the same period. The poverty rate remained unchanged for black and Hispanics.

The last time poverty fell in the US was in 2000 when there were 31.1 million people officially classed as poor.

The rise in poverty comes despite solid economic growth in 2004, which helped to create 2.2 million jobs in the US.

"I guess what happened last year was kind of similar to what happened in the early 1990s where you had a recession that was officially over and then you had several years after that of rising poverty," said Charles Nelson, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau.

Sheldon Danziger, co-director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, said poverty rates were still much better than in the early nineties.

"The good news is that poverty is a lot lower than it was in 1993, but we went through a hell of an economic boom," Mr Danziger said.

Poverty levels are based on the bureau's population surveys, carried out over three months, beginning in February, with about 100,000 households nationally.


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