WASHINGTON — Despite a decade of economic growth, poverty and inequality increased in most Western democracies during the 1980s, according to a new report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.But, the report said the other nations in the study - Britain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, West Germany, and Sweden - did a better job of responding to poverty than the United States. Using a measure of poverty based on household incomes less than 40 percent of the national median income, the report said the poverty rate among US households in the mid-1980s was 13.6 percent compared with an 8.9 percent poverty rate in Canada, 7 percent in the United Kingdom, 3.2 percent in West Germany, 5.7 percent in the Netherlands, 6.1 percent in France, and 5.9 percent in Sweden. "In sharp contrast to other Western democracies, government policies in the United States did not reduce overall poverty levels in the 1980s," the report said. "In every European country studied, between one-third and almost two-thirds of non-elderly poor households were lifted out of poverty by income transfers," it said. It said that the United States has the highest incidence of poverty among the non-elderly and the widest distribution of poverty across all age and family groups. But the report said that slower growth rates in the 1980s and the resulting losses of jobs, reduced wages or work hours, has called into question the ability of the traditional work-based welfare programs of the Europeans, as well as American welfare system, to reduce poverty.