Friday, September 17, 2010
Recession Raises Poverty Rate to a 15-Year High - NYTimes.com
The percentage of Americans struggling below the poverty line in 2009 was the highest it has been in 15 years, the Census Bureau reported Thursday, and interviews with poverty experts and aid groups said the increase appeared to be continuing this year.
With the country in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance.
And the numbers could have climbed higher: One way embattled Americans have gotten by is sharing homes with siblings, parents or even nonrelatives, sometimes resulting in overused couches and frayed nerves but holding down the rise in the national poverty rate, according to the report.
The share of residents in poverty climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level recorded since 1994. The rise was steepest for children, with one in five affected, the bureau said.
The report provides the most detailed picture yet of the impact of the recession and unemployment on incomes, especially at the bottom of the scale. It also indicated that the temporary increases in aid provided in last year’s stimulus bill eased the burdens on millions of families.
For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050.
Given the depth of the recession, some economists had expected an even larger jump in the poor.
“A lot of people would have been worse off if they didn’t have someone to move in with,” said Timothy M. Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin.