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Politics
Native Americans still poorest in United States


Income levels have risen and poverty rates have stabilized but Native Americans remain the poorest in the nation, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday.

From 2004 to 2005, the average American household earned $46,326, an increase of 1.1 percent. It was the first time since 1999 that the median household income rose, the Census said.

But incomes for American Indian and Alaska Native homes remained well below the rest of the nation. Based on a three-year average from 2003 to 2005, the median income was $33,627, lower than incomes for white, Asian and Hispanic households.

Only African-American households, with a median income of $31,140, ranked below Native households.

Turning to poverty, 2005 marked the first time that poverty rates have not risen. For four consecutive years, the Census has reported an increase in the number of Americans living below the poverty line.

Despite the stabilization, there are still 37 million people, or 12.6 percent of the population, and 7.7 million families in poverty. Among American Indians and Alaska Natives, the picture was much worse.

According to a three-year average of data, 25.3 percent of Native Americans are living in poverty. This was actually a slight increase from the 24.3 percent that the Census reported in its last report on income and poverty.

The figure translated to 537,00 American Indians and Alaska Natives who were below the poverty line. As defined by the Office of Management and Budget, the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2005 was $19,971; for a family of three, $15,577; for a family of two, $12,755; and for unrelated individuals, $9,973.

The report, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005," also contained figures on health insurance coverage. The Census said the number of people with and without insurance rose from 2004 to 2005.

Nearly 30 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives, or about 661,000 people, were uninsured, according to the data. This was statistically unchanged from figures released last year.

Only Hispanics had a higher uninsured rate of 32.7 percent, again the same as the year prior.

The Census used to count people whose only source of care was the Indian Health Service as insured. But since 1988, IHS-only patients are considered uninsured.

"The effect of this change on the overall estimates of health insurance coverage was negligible," the report stated.

The figures released yesterday were open to interpretation by Democrats and Republicans. Democratic leaders said it was proof that President Bush's administration hasn't done anything to improve the lives of Americans.

Republicans said immigrants are to blame for the lack of significant improvement. But people who weren't born in the United States still had higher income levels and higher rates of insurance coverage than Native Americans.

Relevant Documents:
Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005 | Press Release: Income Climbs, Poverty Stabilizes, Uninsured Rate Increases

Census Bureau Data:
Income | Poverty | Insurance

Relevant Links:
U.S. Census Bureau - http://www.census.gov