Tuesday, September 13, 2011

US Poverty Rate at Its Highest Since 1993

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report on national poverty rates. According to this report, in 2010, there were 46.2 million people in poverty -- the largest number in the 52 years that poverty estimates have been published. The poverty rate increased for the third consecutive time annually, up to 15.1 percent in 2010 from 14.3 percent in 2009.  For non-Hispanic Whites, the poverty rate went up from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent, for Blacks from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent, and for Hispanics from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent.  For the fourth consecutive year, child poverty rates rose with more than 16 million children now living in poverty. The rate of people living in deep poverty (defined as a family earning an annual income below half the poverty line) rose to a record high of 6.7 percent. 

These poverty numbers have important policy implications for what is influencing the increase in poverty and what is providing a safety net for children and families across the country. For example, the recession and continuing challenges with employment have a direct impact on poverty numbers. According to the Census Bureau, real median household income declined by 2.3 percent between 2009 and 2010.  Since 2007, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent. Further the number of men working full time, year round with earnings has decreased by 6.6 million since 2007 and the number of women working full time, year round with earnings decreased by 2.8 million.  Fortunately, government assistance programs are being shown to have mitigated some of these affects.  In 2010, Unemployment Insurance helped to lower the number of people in poverty by 3.2 million people and Social Security Insurance by 20.3 million people. While the official poverty measure does not count the Earned Income Tax Credit or SNAP (food stamp) benefits as income, the Census Bureau also reported that if those programs has been counted,  EITC would have been shown to lift 5.4 million people out of poverty and SNAP would have been found to lift 3.9 million people out of poverty.

CSSP recognizes that these numbers provide only a glimpse of the experience of families and communities throughout the country and that poverty has a significant impact on the mental and physical well-being of children and families.  As a recent post by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights, the experience of people living in poverty cannot be captured by these numbers alone. For example, according to the Agriculture Department, nearly half (44 percent) of poor households with children were “food insecure” (having trouble being able to afford food) in 2010.  

For a deeper breakdown of the poverty numbers and its relevance to policymakers, visit CSSP's Policy for Results blogToday's data is based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) which provides data at the state and national level. On September 22, the Census Bureau will release data from the American Community Survey (ACS) which provides data at the community level. We will continue to keep you updated as more information is released.

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