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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most U.S. mayors and city officials say poverty is a growing problem, with many families unable to get by, according to a survey released on Monday.
Some 90 percent of city officials in the National League of Cities survey of mayors and leaders of towns of 30,000 people or more say that during the last decade poverty rates have either increased or stayed the same in their towns.
About a third of those participating consider poverty "a severe or serious problem" in their cities.
"More than four decades after the United States government declared 'war' on poverty, the 'official' 2008 poverty rate is 12.3 percent, not even 2 percent less than the 1967 figure of 14.2 per cent," the report said, adding:
"The federal poverty threshold, on which the national poverty rate is determined, however, is viewed as outdated by many, used since the 1960s and based on economic data from the 1950s based on food consumption being one third of one's annual expenses."
Most respondents said the federal government's poverty income threshold is significantly lower than what it takes to survive in their cities. While the federal government considers a family of three with an income below $17,170 impoverished, 30 percent of those surveyed said a family needs at least an income of $30,000 to get by in their cities.
Single-parent families, low-wage workers and senior citizens are most likely to be poor, and one-third of survey participants said that poverty is geographically dispersed throughout their cities.
While eight in 10 of those surveyed said that reducing poverty is a responsibility of city government, most also said that economic conditions beyond the cities' control are their biggest barrier to ending it.
Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by James Dalgleish