New Poverty Numbers Likely To Be Bad


The Census Bureau is slated to release the latest figures on some critical national indicators early Tuesday morning. Both poverty rates and the number of uninsured Americans will be included in the data dump, and neither figure is likely to be good.

The poverty rate has been creeping up for years. Between 2001 and 2007, poverty rose from 13.2 percent to 14.3 percent, and that was before the unemployment rate skyrocketed over 9 percent after the financial crisis and burst of the housing bubble. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities projects that 2010 may set a new record for the number of people living in deep poverty—that is, on income below half the federal poverty level (about $11,000 for a family of four). In 2009, the country got close to that mark when 6.3 percent of the country was living that close to the edge. It won’t take much for deep poverty to claim a share of the population the country hasn’t seen since 1975, according to CBPP.

The numbers of uninsured people aren’t likely to look any more rosy, given that unemployment has remained stubbornly high. In 2009, 51 million people lacked health insurance—one out of every 6 people—and CBPP predicts that the number for 2010 will be even higher.

The Census figures will be released at 10 a.m. Tuesday, when we’ll find out for sure. But even if nothing changes much from last year, the numbers will continue to paint a gloomy financial picture for the country’s most vulnerable people. As CBPP points out, the only real way to help these folks in the short term is for the government to take more action, including extending the unemployment benefits and payroll tax holiday policies that are set to expire at the end of the year. But with the congressional “supercommittee” only looking at ways to cut federal spending, it’s hard to see any of that happening any time soon, regardless of what the Census has to say about just how much people are suffering.

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