1 In 3 Americans Poor Or 'Near Poor'

Phyllis Pendleton is a social worker with Catholic Charities in Washington, and her husband is a janitor. Combined, the couple makes about $51,000 a year, or more than 200 percent of the official poverty line. Taxes, medical care and transportation to work cost them about a fifth of their combined salaries, leaving them with a disposable income of about $40,000 a year. As noted in the New York Times article published on November 19, 2011, when the poverty threshold is adjusted to $31,000 for the region’s high cost of living, and the couple's income is 29 percent above the poverty line. Under the new measures of poverty released by the Census Bureau that was blogged about here last month, the couple is "near poor."

Pendleton told the Times that the couple is living paycheck to paycheck. "One bad bill will wipe you out," Pendleton told the Times.

According to the Times, 100 million people, or one in three Americans, are either living in poverty or in "the fretful zone just above it." Half live in households headed by a married couple and 49 percent live in the suburbs. Nearly half are non-Hispanic white, 18 percent are black and 26 percent are Latino, according to the Times, which also noted, "Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 28 percent work full-time, year round."

"These estimates defy the stereotypes of low-income families," Census Bureau chief poverty statistician Trudi J. Renwick told the Times.

Some critics oppose the term "near poverty" for conjuring levels of dire need experienced by only a minority among the truly poor. What do you think of the Census Bureau's new measure of poverty? Is the "near poor" label misleading? Our Chicago bankruptcy attorney wants to hear how you feel.

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