A record 5.2 million Hispanic Americans lived in poverty last year as the median family income of the group fell by $478, according to a study of Census Bureau data. The analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also found that two out of five Hispanic children lived below the poverty line last year.
The nonprofit research organization also said that ``if current trends continue, Hispanics will pass blacks in the next few years as the ethnic group with the highest poverty rate in the nation.''
``While poverty worsened among Hispanics, it improved among blacks, making the Hispanic poverty rate now only slightly lower than the black poverty rate,'' said the study, based on census data released last week.
While the poverty rate of 31.3 percent among blacks last year was virtually the same as it was in 1979, the rate for Hispanics had increased from 21.8 percent to 29 percent during the same period, the report said.
The median income of Hispanic families dropped $478 last year, to $19,027, while it rose $803, to $16,786, among black families and increased $478, to $29,152, for white families. Median means that half the families earned more than that amount and half earned less.
The study noted the poverty rate among Hispanic families headed by women was 53.1 percent, compared with 50.5 percent among black families headed by single women.
``The only reason that the overall Hispanic poverty rate is still lower than the black poverty rate is that the percentage of families that are headed by a female is lower for Hispanics than for blacks,'' the study said.
The median income of Hispanic families, adjusted for inflation, fell 9.8 percent between 1973 and 1985, compared with an overall decline of 4.9 percent for American families during the period, the report said.