Saturday, September 18, 2010
One In Seven Americans Now Living In Poverty
The Census Bureau reports that 44 million Americans were living below the poverty line in 2009, or one in seven people — a rather remarkable statistic.
The share of people living in poverty rose to 14.3 percent in 2009 from 13.2 percent in 2008, the highest level since 1994.
The rampant unemployment associated with the Great Recession was largely responsible for the development, as the ranks of the poverty stricken grew by four million last year. And there is every indication that the trend is continuing this year.
At its pre-recession peak, in the second quarter of 2007, the net worth of American households stood at $65.8 trillion. As of the second quarter of this year, it was $53.5 trillion, a 19 percent drop.
According to the Census report, three million American families were only kept above the poverty line by unemployment insurance.
But even those with jobs are regressing. Median family incomes were 5 percent lower in 2009 than in 1999. The median US household income in 2009 was just $49,777. That's less than a thousand bucks per week.
"This is the first time in memory that an entire decade has produced essentially no economic growth for the typical American household," says Harvard economist Lawrence Katz.
For a family trying to pay for housing, medical insurance, food and utilities in a large metropolitan area, that sum won't go far. Last year, the average health insurance cost for a family of four was $13,375, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.
In 2009, the poverty threshold for a four-person family, including two kids, was about $22,000. That's a very loose definition of poverty. Imagine living in a large city, especially on the coasts, and trying to support four people on $22 grand. Good luck.
To cope with falling incomes and joblessness, many people have been sharing homes with family and friends. The Census study found an 11.6 percent increase in the number of multifamily households over the last two years.
The one in seven Americans living in poverty conflates with the nearly one in seven also on food stamps.
The number of Americans receiving food stamps had grown by more than two million just by the midpoint of this year, reaching 41.3 million people. And it is still rising.
Taken as a whole, all of this data points to the hardships now faced by millions of American families. Any reasonable person would only expect the ranks of the poverty stricken to continue increasing this year and into the foreseeable future.
The Great Recession is taking a brutal toll on our nation and it is changing the lives of millions of Americans for the worse. An entire generation may grow up with diminished hopes and expectations for the future.
"Clearly, the Census is setting the income level for their poverty measurement extremely low, and if you increase that measure by just a small increment, to $25,000 for a family of four, you are now looking at nearly 100 million Americans in poverty." - David DeGraw, AmpedStatus Report