Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
The numbers below come from Rank's analysis being published by the Oxford University Press. They are supplemented with interviews and figures provided to the AP by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau. AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Debra McCown in Buchanan County, Va., contributed to this report.
In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy "poor."
While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show.
Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in
the government's poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white
adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being
published next year by the Oxford University Press.
Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.
Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty "rates" for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by "absolute numbers" the predominant face of the poor is white.
More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white.
4 in 10 adults falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.
The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality.
Higher recent rates of unemployment mean the lifetime risk of experiencing economic insecurity now runs even higher: 79 percent, or 4 in 5 adults, by the time they turn 60.
Compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.
For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade
Since 2000, the poverty rate among working-class whites has grown faster than among working-class nonwhites, rising 3 percentage points to 11 percent as the recession took a bigger toll among lower-wage workers.
Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, a biannual survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.
"Poverty is no longer an issue of `them', it's an issue of `us'," says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."