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One In Three Americans In Or Near Poverty

The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that in 2010, median household income declined, the poverty rate increased and the percentage without health insurance coverage was not statistically different from the previous year.

Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010, while the percentage without coverage −16.3 percent – was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.

These findings are contained in the report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010.

The following results for the nation were compiled from information collected in the 2011 Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC):

* The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest since 1993. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points.

* In 2010, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.7 percent and 9.2 million, respectively, up from 11.1 percent and 8.8 million in 2009.

* The poverty rate and the number in poverty increased for both married-couple families (6.2 percent and 3.6 million in 2010 from 5.8 percent and 3.4 million in 2009) and female-householder-with-no-husband-present families (31.6 percent and 4.7 million in 2010 from 29.9 percent and 4.4 million in 2009). For families with a male householder no wife present, the poverty rate and the number in poverty were not statistically different from 2009 (15.8 percent and 880,000 in 2010).

However, the National Academy of Sciences has identified several major weaknesses in the current poverty measure:

– The current income measure does not reflect the effects of key government
policies that alter the disposable income available to families and, hence, their poverty status. Examples include payroll taxes, which reduce disposable income, and in-kind public benefit programs such as the Food Stamp Program/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that free up resources to spend on nonfood items.

– The current poverty thresholds do not adjust for rising levels and standards of living that have occurred since 1965. The official thresholds were approximately equal to half of median income in 1963–64. By 1992, one half median income had increased to more than 120 percent of the official threshold.

– The current measure does not take into account variation in expenses that are necessary to hold a job and to earn income—expenses that reduce disposable income. These expenses include transportation costs for getting to work and the increasing costs of child care for working families resulting from increased labor force participation of mothers.

– The current measure does not take into account variation in medical costs across population groups depending on differences in health status and insurance coverage and does not account for rising health care costs as a share of family budgets.

– The current poverty thresholds use family size adjustments that are U.S. Census Bureau
anomalous and do not take into account important changes in family situations, including
payments made for child support and increasing cohabitation among unmarried couples.

-The current poverty thresholds do not adjust for geographic differences in prices across
the nation, although there are significant variations in prices across geographic areas.

Taking these factors in mind, the census bureau has calculated a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM).

There were 49.1 million poor using the SPM definition of poverty, more than the 46.6 million using the official definition of poverty with our universe. For most groups, SPM rates are higher than official poverty rates. The most striking difference is in the over-65 population, with a SPM poverty rate almost twice as high as the official rate.

In a follow-up to the release of the supplemental poverty measure report, the New York Times commissioned the Census Bureau to create a special tabulation based on the measure, and as a service to other users the Census Bureaupostied this tabulation online. The statistics focus on the characteristics of the population just above the poverty line (100 to 150 percent of the poverty threshold). The supplemental poverty measure does not replace the official poverty measure but is intended to better reflect contemporary social and economic realities and government policy effects and thus provide a further understanding of economic conditions and trends.

And what does that new report show:

A new measure of poverty released by the U.S. Census Bureau meant to better count disposable income shows that some 51 million Americans — one in three — are either living in poverty or just barely above it.

The new report shows 51 million Americans with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line, 76 percent more than the official account published in September.

All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the highly worrisome place just above it.

But that’s not a problem, right. It’s the deficit that driving up interest rates, right? Oh, wait, interest rates aren’t going anywhere!