1 In 7 Americans Live In Poverty

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year, leaving one in seven Americans in poverty.
The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people, the Census Bureau said Thursday in its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. The report covers 2009, President Barack Obama's first year in office.
The poverty rate climbed from 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million people, in 2008.
The share of Americans without health coverage rose from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent -- or 50.7 million people -- mostly because of the loss of employer-provided health insurance during the recession. Congress passed a health overhaul this year to address rising numbers of the uninsured, but the main provisions will not take effect until 2014.
The new figures come at a politically sensitive time, just weeks before the Nov. 2 congressional elections, when voters restive about high unemployment and the slow pace of economic improvement will decide whether to keep Democrats in power or turn to Republicans.
The 14.3 percent poverty rate, which covers all ages, was the highest since 1994. Still, it was lower than estimates of many demographers who were bracing for a record gain based on last year's skyrocketing unemployment. Many had predicted a range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.
Analysts credited in part increases in Social Security payments in 2009 as well as federal expansions of unemployment insurance, which rose substantially in 2009 under the economic stimulus program. With the additional unemployment benefits, workers were eligible for extensions that gave them up to 99 weeks of payments after a layoff.
Another likely factor was a record number of working mothers, who helped households by bringing home paychecks after the recession took the jobs of a disproportionately high number of men.
"Given all the unemployment we saw, it's the government safety net that's keeping people above the poverty line," said Douglas Besharov, a University of Maryland public policy professor and former scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
Other census findings:
--Among the working-age population, ages 18 to 65, poverty rose from 11.7 percent to 12.9 percent. That puts it at the highest since the 1960s, when the government launched a war on poverty that expanded the federal role in social welfare programs from education to health care.
--Poverty rose among all race and ethnic groups, but stood at higher levels for blacks and Hispanics. The number of Hispanics in poverty increased from 23.2 percent to 25.3 percent; for blacks it increased from 24.7 percent to 25.8 percent. The number of whites in poverty rose from 8.6 percent to 9.4 percent.
--Child poverty rose from 19 percent to 20.7 percent.
In 2009, the poverty level stood at $21,954 for a family of four, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth, such as home ownership.
As a result, the official poverty rate takes into account the effects of some stimulus programs in 2009, such as unemployment benefits as well as jobs that were created or saved by government spending. But it does not factor in noncash government aid such as tax credits and food stamps, which have surged to record levels in recent months. Experts say such noncash aid tends to have a larger effect on lowering child poverty.
Beginning next year, the government plans to publish new, supplemental poverty figures that are expected to show even higher numbers of people in poverty than previously known. The figures will incorporate rising costs of medical care, transportation and child care, a change analysts believe will add to the ranks of both seniors and working-age people in poverty.


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  • by Anonymous on Sep 19, 2010 at 04:27 AM
    People who go on welfare may not be lazy or lack motivation when they get on welfare, but the system does not encourage them to get out out of the system. When you get barely enough to pay your rent, food and a few other essentials, you want to get out of that rut. They system penalize you more if you try to get out. If you start a job, you get penalized because you can not get into subsidize daycare and you have to pay for a sitter. You can get fired if you do not want to work over the maximum allowed by the system. The system does not allow you to get ahead. It wants you to stay locked into poverty.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 17, 2010 at 08:07 PM
    Lee, People like Kelly and Autumn think that those people on unemployment or welfare are just plain lazy and have a higher standard of living than they do---that is why they are still on government programs. That they squandered the same chances in life Autumn and Kelly had. Kelly and Autumn still think that if you are hard working, educated, and dedicated that you will achieve success in America. But sadly, in today's world, it is *ALSO* who you know, your 'connections'; who help you advance. And, you become beholden to them for their help.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 17, 2010 at 04:02 PM
    What happened to this country?JOBS WENT OVER SEAS by the thousands so some business owner could make high profits off poor people.At the same time they turned their back on this country and the people in it.The ones that lost jobs added up and less money was spent in the economy sop there went more jobs.The gov did nothing and now thousands can't get by.Prices of many things have went way up beyond what so many pay checks can't pay.Homes were lost and more will be,people are going hungry.The disabled,social security,low waged folks and many that were middle class are no longer so but just plane poor.POVERTY in it's finest and it is going on all over Mich and this country.Bigger cities have so many issues.Help is not there like needed.Too many have needs and not many can give.This is all new for many in the USA.It is so real and those who aren't there thank God because you many be some day.Count your blessings while you have them.
  • by Autumn Location: East Lansing on Sep 17, 2010 at 11:50 AM
    Once again Kelly, you're the voice of reason. We've become a lazy, self-centered society which will inevitably collapse under its own weight.
  • by Lee on Sep 17, 2010 at 11:01 AM
    Ms Kelly, bet you never went hungry a day in your life. Bet you live in a nice home and have money to burn. Bet you see poor people and run in terror or call the police. Bet you have never done any volunter work. But you have big opinions, and pat yourself on the back for how good you are. Hope you like the way you look to the rest of us. Trust me it's not pretty.
  • by Sandi on Sep 17, 2010 at 10:57 AM
    Kelly, Obviously you never traveled around our country. If you did you only looked at the "pretty" things. Having traveled overseas to 3rd world countries I can tell you that poverty has a "SMELL" which is once smelled never forgotten. There are places in Lansing with that smell, there are kids in Lansing going hungry, and homeless, sleeping in cars or abandoned buildings. I do not wish to see people in other countries going without, however charity begins at home, here in the good old USA!! People can not get welfare or foodstamps if they have no address. But I bet you already know this and don't care.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 17, 2010 at 10:08 AM
    The numbers that are put out reflects the agenda of the government. When the numbers are low, people were working and less people were receiving aid. The republicans made it less feasible for people not to work. When the number are high, the democrats provided more programs that made it more economical for someone not to work.
  • by Sans on Sep 17, 2010 at 06:05 AM
    This is terrible. I would hope that every single person who reads this makes a determined effort to do something to help, be it the food bank, Cristo Rey, City Rescue Mission, St. Vincents. Give what you can, these people need our help.
  • by Jon Location: Okemos on Sep 16, 2010 at 06:43 PM
    Dah!!Take away our job's= makes people poor...WHEN WE HAD OUR JOB'S WE WERE DOING FINE, we even had health insurance.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 16, 2010 at 05:53 PM
    What is considered poverty? Is it would take to pay rent, heat, utilities, and food. These number are completely discretionary depending on who you want to consider poor.
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