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Algora Publishing - Economy Lifts Family Income To Record High
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Economy Lifts Family Income To Record High
By Charles Babingto Washington Post Service - October 1, 1999

WASHINGTON - The typical American family's income reached an all-time high last year, even when adjusted for inflation, as a strong economy wiped out most vestiges of the recession of the early 1990s, according to the Census Bureau.

Median household income reached $38,900 last year, exceeding the previous inflation -adjusted high of 1989, the year before the recession began claiming jobs and paychecks.

The new figures also show that the poverty rate reached a record low in the South but changed little anywhere else. Median household incomes rose in every geographic region of the country for the first time since such measurements began in 1975, census officials said Thursday in releasing their annual report on incomes and poverty.

Despite the good economic news, the report found pockets where Americans continue to struggle economically. While the overall poverty rate for children was down, more than half of all children under 6 and living in a female-headed household remained in poverty, the report said. Poverty rates were basically unchanged everywhere except in the South.

The nation's overall poverty rate of 12.7 percent - was the lowest in two decades. Some liberal groups applauded the gain but noted that the poverty rate still was higher than it was during much of the 1970s when adjusted for inflation.

"For an economy this strong, the poverty rate is still too high," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The 1998 poverty threshold for a family of four was $16,600 in income.

Hispanic families remain among the nation's poorest, but they made significant gains in 1998, the census report found. Their median household income climbed by 4.8 percent, to $28,300. The poverty rate for Hispanic families fell to 22.7 percent, from 24.7 Percent in 1997.

Median household incomes, for non Hispanic whites reached a record $42,400, while black households held steady at $25,400.

The report concluded that the gap between rich and poor families did not worsen from 1997 to 1998. The poorest 20 percent of the nation's households had a median income of $9,223 last year, while the wealthiest 20 percent had $127,529. The middle 20 percent had a median household income of $38,967.