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August 14, 2004

According to a report released on August 26 by the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s official poverty rate rose from 12.1 percent in 2002 to 12.5 percent in 2003, representing an increase of 1.3 million more poor people. Approximately 35.9 million Americans now live in poverty. The new figures represent the third straight year of increase in the ranks of the nation’s poor.

The Census data also reported that Hispanic householders (who can be of any race) experienced a real decline in median income of 2.6 percent between 2002 and 2003, whereas the median wage of other population groups stayed the same. Hispanics without health insurance continues at 32.8%. Among Hispanics, the poverty rate remained unchanged at 22.5 percent in 2003, while the number in poverty increased from 8.6 million in 2002 to 9.1 million in 2003. Those without American citizenship showed an increase while the rate of poverty among foreign born naturalized citizens remained unchanged.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), a program of the Catholic Bishops of the United States is one of the largest private funders of self-help programs for poor and low-income people in the United States and it has launched a national public awareness program to educate Americans about the facts related to poverty in the United States and solutions that work.

Rev. Robert J. Vitillo, executive director of CCHD said, “The new census numbers are a wake-up call to all Americans, poor and non-poor alike, as well as legislators of address the need to find more effective methods for eradicating the root causes of poverty. The magnitude of 35.9 million poor Americans begs a visual comparison: If all those living in poverty in the United States were to populate a single state, it would be our largest—bigger than California. It would be Poverty USA, America’s forgotten state.”

For more information at http://www.povertyusa.org

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