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Poverty rising faster among whites than blacks

Poverty is increasing faster among white people who are not Hispanic than among black people, an anti-poverty research group said Thursday.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-profit organization supported primarily by charitable foundations, said non-Hispanic whites constitute a majority of the poor in 33 states.

In seven states, including Florida, non-Hispanic whites are the largest group among the poor, although not a majority. In Florida, 47 percent of the poor are non-Hispanic whites, 33 percent are black, and 19 percent Hispanic.

In Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and South Carolina, blacks are the largest group. Hispanics lead in California, New Mexico and Texas and people of Asian or Pacific Island descent are the largest group of poor in Hawaii.

"Poverty among non-Hispanic whites has received scant attention," the center said. "Poverty debates in this country frequently become ensnared in controversies about race and ethnicity."

It said that "half of the nation's 35.7-million poor people are non-Hispanic whites and recent poverty trends among this group have not been encouraging."

In a report titled White Poverty in America, the center said 51 percent of the 4.2-million people added to the ranks of the poor between 1989 and 1991 were whites other than Hispanic.

Blacks and Hispanics each accounted for 22 percent of the growth of poor people.

The number of non-Hispanic whites living in poverty increased 14 percent while the poor black population was increasing 10 percent.

At the same time, the numbers of Hispanic poor increased 17 percent, but the center said some of this increase was because of rapid growth in the Hispanic population.

Hispanic is an ethnic not a racial designation. There are Hispanics of all races, but 95 percent of them list themselves as white.

Despite the overall statistics, a black or Hispanic person was much more likely to be poor than a white individual.

The report said nearly one in 10 whites was poor in 1991, but the poverty rates among blacks and Hispanics were nearly triple this.

The report used the Census Bureau definition of poverty, which is based on an income level varying by family size. For 1991, a family of four with income of $13,924 or less was considered poor.