Reading is the new Mississippi, circa 1964


From the census bureau comes these sad 2008 statistics about poverty in Reading:

Living in poverty: 34 percent.

Under age 18 and living in poverty: 48 percent.

Median household income: $28,098.

Adults without a high school diploma: 32 percent.

Of course, Reading is not the bellwether for this dark slide. Camden's 41.7% poverty rate maxes out the list of the 1000 largest cities. San Diego's rate hit a 50-year high. A Chicago professor says rates are expected to rise again in 2009. And so on.

But then none of this should be surprising, as the AP reports:

The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans — those making more than $138,000 each year — earned 11.4 times the roughly $12,000 made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008, according to newly released census figures. That ratio was an increase from 11.2 in 2007 and the previous high of 11.22 in 2003.

Household income declined across all groups, but at sharper percentage levels for middle-income and poor Americans. Median income fell last year from $52,163 to $50,303, wiping out a decade's worth of gains to hit the lowest level since 1997.

Poverty jumped sharply to 13.2 percent, an 11-year high.

"No one should be surprised at the increased disparity," said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University. "Unemployment hurts normal workers who do not have the golden parachutes the folks at the top have."

But even that disparity may be understated.  Bruce Judson of the Yale School of Management writes:

First, economists have, with few exceptions, agreed that Census Data is inappropriate for measuring income inequality because it consistently understates the income of the wealthiest families. To protect the privacy of reporting individuals, the Census "top-codes" income, which means that no one is ever recorded as making more than about $1.1 million in a single year. So, oil traders, hedge fund executives and anyone else at the super-high end of the income strata who might earn $100, $50 or $5 million in a single year, always earn $1.1 million or less in this Census Data. In addition, the Census Data does not include capital gains income, which is typically a large source of income for the wealthiest Americans.

(One sharp thinker posted this comment with the Reading Eagle article: "and the Obama economy continues.........." The stats are from 2008, when the president was WHO?)

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