The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 46.3 million Americans, about one in seven or 14.3 percent, live below the poverty line, according to data for 2009. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of Americans in poverty increased by 3.8 million. This brings the U.S. to the highest poverty rate since 1994. Poverty is determined by income level for certain groups. For example, making less than about $11,000 for an individual under 65 or less than $22,000 for a family of four is considered poverty. Here's what people are saying about this discouraging report.
Where's 'The American Dream'? Liberal blogger Duncan "Atrios" Black writes, " If the American economy does not function in a way that lets people who try reasonably hard obtain desired education, find fairly stable employment, obtain modest improvements in income/standard of living over the course of their lifetimes, earn enough money so that raising a family is possible, then we're doing something wrong."
- How It Breaks Across Demographics NPR's David Gura writes, "What can we take from these numbers? The poverty increased across most demographic groups, including race and age. There were a couple of exceptions. Asians had a poverty rate of 12.5 percent, pretty much in line with what it was in the 2008 report, and among senior citizens, 65 and older, the poverty rate dropped .8 percent, to 8.9 percent in 2009."
- Poverty Is Going to Get Much Worse The Brookings Institute write in a report, "In September of 2009 we performed an analysis in which we simulated what would happen to the poverty rate over the next several years based on projections of the unemployment rate and the estimated relationship between the poverty rate and the unemployment rate. ... The bottom line of this analysis is that the recession is likely to have a dramatic impact on poverty over the next several years. Our simulations suggest that the overall poverty rate will increase from 12.5 percent in 2007 to nearly 16 percent by 2014 and that the child poverty rate will increase from 18 percent in 2007 to nearly 26 percent in 2014, adding about 10 million people total and 6 million children to the ranks of the poor by the middle of the current decade."
- ...What To Do About It The Brookings report adds, "Despite the fact that our simulation accurately predicted the poverty rate for 2009, we emphasize that there is strong possibility that the estimates we present here are conservative, given that we do not know how dramatic of an effect the current recession will have on structural unemployment in the future. In light of these increases we believe that programs such as Food Stamps and TANF that can help to buffer the effects of the recession on lower-income families should be maintained or increased in these difficult economic times."
- What Poverty Measure Gets Wrong The Wall Street Journal's Conor Dougherty says that one of the "questions about the accuracy" of this poverty measurement is that it measures only income rather than general economic welfare. He writes, "Perhaps the biggest problem is that the official poverty rate -- which rose to 13.2% in 2008, the highest since 1997 -- doesn't account for the lion's share of antipoverty measures such as subsidized housing and the earned income tax credit. It also tends to overstate inflation. 'We want to know how people are doing today relative to how people at the bottom were doing last year, five years ago, 10 years ago. And we want to know if our government programs and economic growth have improved their lot,' said Bruce Meyer."
- Could Shift Tax Cuts Debate NBC News' Chuck Todd tweets, "Does the fact that 1 in 7 Americans, according to Census bureau, are living in poverty impact the debate over tax cuts?"
- Joined With Decline in Health Care Coverage The Associated Press' Hope Yen writes, "The number of people lacking health insurance rose from 46.3 million to 50.7 million, due mostly to the loss of employer-provided health insurance during the recession. Congress passed a health overhaul earlier this year to extend coverage to more people. "