Despite an economic boom that has increased employment and boosted salaries nationwide, the disparity between the rich and poor is at its worst point since 1970, according to the 1999 Index of Social Health, published by Fordham University. According to the report, which gauges the nation’s performance in addressing 16 key social problems including child abuse, health insurance coverage, homelessness and homicides the poor have suffered under the Clinton Administration. “There is obviously another side to our prosperity,” says Marc L. Miringoff, Ph.D., director of Fordham’s Institute for Innovation in Social Policy. “While economic growth improved, social health declined. In fact, the gap between them has opened to its widest point in two decades.”

The study shows that four indicators have reached their worst point since 1970: child abuse, access to food stamps, health insurance coverage and the economic inequality between the rich and poor. The Index of Social Health is the nation’s only cumulative measure of the impact of such a broad range of social problems on so many sectors of society. According to the Index, which uses the latest available figures, from 1997, the number of people eligible for food stamps but who don’t receive them has grown by 17 percent. The number of uninsured has increased by 5 percent. The overall Index declined by 1.3 percent, to 46 out of a possible 100. “This is only the second time since 1970 that four indicators have hit their lowest point in the same year,” says Miringoff. “After a relatively good performance in the past few years, this is a discouraging sign.”