September 23, 2003

By Robert Greenstein and Isaac Shapiro

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A new Center report, Poverty Increases and Median Income Declines for Second Consecutive Year, examines newly issued Census Bureau data on poverty and incomes for 2002.  The data show an increase in poverty and a decline in the median income in 2002 (as in 2001), primarily because of rising unemployment: the unemployment rate averaged 5.8 percent in 2002, up markedly from 4.7 percent in 2001 and 4.0 percent in 2000.  These poverty and income trends are likely to continue in 2003 as well, since both the unemployment rate and the number of long-term unemployed have risen this year, while average hourly wages for low-paid workers have fallen and a number of states have cut basic assistance programs to help balance their budgets.