US Census Report: In 2009, 43.6 Million People Lived In Poverty

Today, the US Census Bureau released its 2009 report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in the United States. The data compiled for the report were collected by the Census Bureau in 2010, and the findings reflect the full negative social impact of the recession on the poor and the middle-class. The 88 pages report gives a very bleak picture on the condition of the US economy, and confirms that America’s social safety net system is broken.

According to the report, the poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent of the US population up from 13.2 percent in 2008. There were 43.6 million people living in poverty in 2009 compared to 39.8 million people in 2008. This trend started before the onset of the recession in December 2007, and marked the third consecutive annual increase of the poverty rate.

Meanwhile, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009. As defined by the Office of Management and Budget, and accounting for inflation using the consumer price index, the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2009 was $21,954. This arbitrary poverty line level is incredibly low, which of course indicates that the number of people effectively living in poverty is a lot higher than 43.6 million. In comparison, the median income for men who worked full time in 2009 was $47,127, and in 2009 the earnings of women who worked full time were 77 percent of earnings for men, or $36,278.

The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, and the number of people living in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates have been available. In 2009, the family poverty rate and the number of families living in poverty were 11.1 percent (or 8.8 million) up from 10.3 percent (or 8.1 million) in 2008.

The poverty rate and the number of people living in poverty increased across all types of families: Married couple families (3.4 million in 2009 from 3.3 million in 2008); female householders with no husband present families (4.4 million in 2009 from 4.2 million in 2008); and for male householders with no wife present families (942,000 in 2009 from 723,000 in 2008).

A further disturbing trend is that more and more children are now living in poverty. The poverty rate increased for children younger than 18 went from 19 percent in 2008 to 20.7 percent in 2009. For people 18 to 64, the poverty rate increased as well, from 11.7 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent in 2009. Meanwhile,  for seniors 65 and older the number of people in poverty declined from 3.7 million in 2008 to 3.4 million in 2009.

In terms of health insurance coverage, the number of people with health insurance decreased from 255.1 million in 2008 to 253.6 million in 2009. It is the first year since 1987 that the number of people with health insurance has decreased. In 2009, 10 percent (or 7.5 million) of children under 18 were without insurance. The uninsured rate for children in poverty was at 15.1 percent, and was greater than the rate for all children.

Regionally, the poverty rate increased more from 2008 to 2009 in the Midwest, the South and the West than in the Northeast.

To read the full 88 pages sobering report from the US Census Bureau on Income, Poverty and Health Coverage in 2009 click here.

Editor’s Note: Photographs by Gilbert Mercier.


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