People Struggle, Despite Market Success

Fifteen percent of Americans live in poverty, according to new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Median household income decreased to $50,054 in 2011, down roughly $800 from the year before. On an inflation-adjusted level, that's about 8% less than the median income in 2007.

Just looking at the markets, the economy may appear to be improving. But income levels and the unemployment rate have been slow to rebound. The unemployment rate has exceeded 8% for more than three years now -- the longest such period since 1948 -- and the gap between the rich and poor is the highest since 1967, Bloomberg reported.

Food stamp use is at also at a record high, with 46.7 million people participating as of June, up more than 3% from the year-ago period.

Despite the gloomy news, stocks are broadly up for the year, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) up more than 9% year to date, and 20% in the past year. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) has enjoyed an even more impressive bull run, up more than 14% year to date and nearly 24% in the past 12 months.

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