1960s >> 1963 >> no-709-september-1963

Poverty in the USA

From time to time the London Times draws attention to admissions of poverty in America. One such article from their correspondent in Washington appeared in the issue of April 19.


It starts off with the statement: ‘‘Every fifth American lives in poverty, and many more in deprivation, according to official statistics. Altogether 77 million are either poor or are denied an adequate standard of living.”


Criticising Professor Galbraith for his over optimistic assumptions about iminishing inequality, the Times article goes on:–


  The starting point could well be the figures of the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics which draw the line between poverty and deprivation at $4,000 a year (£1,428) for a family of four and $2,000 (£714) for an individual living alone. These figures do not necessarily mean cash income, but include the price of food grown by small farmers, and in 1960 nearly 10,500,000 families received less.
The line drawn between deprivation and a modest but adequate standard of living was drawn at a family income level of about $6,000 a year (£2,142). Again according to the Labour Department, in 1960 an urban family of four required between $5.036 and $7,678 a year to live adequately. More than two-fifths of the population do not earn $6000 a year.
The areas of poverty and deprivation are easily defined. Studies of the Conference of Economic Progress showed that 37.2 per cent. lived in the south; 18.3 were unemployed; 16.2 per cent. were elderly; 16.2 per cent, were non-white; and 12.1 per cent. lived on farms.
Circumstances have changed little since 1959 when two-thirds of all farm workers earned less than $1,000 (£357) and some migratory workers earned less than $500. Nearly 80 per cent. of all non-white families lived in poverty or deprivation, and about 32 per cent, earned less than $2.000. Retired couples received social security pensions of $1.500 a year but many poor people do not contribute to the scheme.


Among other interesting details it is stated that in the years since 1929 inequality of income has in one respect increased: “If the poor did not become poorer the rich became richer.”


It is hardly necessary to remind readers that Socialists do not think that poverty is a peculiarity of any one part of the world. All countries are good to live in for the rich and all countries have the poor for the rich to shed tears over.


Edgar Hardcastle