The top-earning 20 percent of Americans - those making more than $100,000 each year - received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.
A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations.
This does not look like good news for many Americans, particularly among children and young adults. It's a reality: income inequality is rising, and it will take a while to recover.
Among the 2009 findings in the article:
-The poorest poor are at record highs. The share of Americans below half the poverty line - $10,977 for a family of four - rose from 5.7 percent in 2008 to 6.3 percent. It was the highest level since 1975.
-The poverty gap between young and old has doubled since 2000, due partly to the strength of Social Security in helping buoy Americans 65 and over. Child poverty is now 21 percent compared with 9 percent for older Americans.