Poverty Rate at Highest Level Since 1993


NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The percentage of Americans living below the poverty line hit 15.1% last year, the highest level since 1993, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The annual report, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, was released this morning, and it’s chock full of bad news. In the first full calendar year since the recession ended in mid-2009, Americans saw their median household income fall to $49,445 – a 2.3% decline from the preceding year. Perhaps more telling is that income has dropped 6.4% from pre-recession levels in 2007.

The fact that income has continued to fall even after the declared end of the recession is concerning, but not unprecedented. To give some historical perspective, the Census Bureau looked at how income changed in the years following previous recessions, and the numbers are all over the place. Income actually increased in the first full calendar year following the 1973-75 recession, whereas income continued to fall after the 1970, 1980 and 2001 recessions.

The latest census numbers suggest the unemployed and poor are bearing the brunt of the country’s economic woes. Currently, 46.2 million Americans are living below the poverty line, defined by the Office of Management and Budget as annual income of $22,314 for a family of four. Young people are also feeling the sting: 14.2% of adults ages 25-34 have moved back in with their parents, compared with 11.8% pre-recession. If those 5.9 million “boomerang kids” were counted as single-person households, 45.3% of them would fall below the poverty line. Overall, this is the third straight year the poverty rate has increased.

If there’s any good news to be found in the report, it’s that the percentage of Americans without health insurance coverage did not rise last year. According to the report, 256.2 million Americans are insured, though more of them are ditching private health insurers and turning to government health insurance.

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