The Census Bureau’s Shocking Poverty Stats

From Mother Jones:

A record number of Americans are living below the poverty line.

Ready for the worse news?

By Stephanie Mencimer

Wed Sep. 14, 2011 3:05 AM PDT

It’s no secret that the economy is in rough shape—but the latest poverty figures released by the Census Bureau on Tuesday are nonetheless shocking. The overall poverty rate has reached a record high and the number of people living in deep poverty—that is, below 50 percent of the poverty level, or $11,000 for a family of four—is the highest its been since 1975. Experts are predicting that things are only going to get worse in the years to come. (Scroll down to see the data.)

Some more lowlights: Median income has sunk lower than it was almost 15 years ago. The number of people living without health insurance is up slightly. The number of kids under the age of six living in extreme poverty is up to nearly 12 percent. The recession has been especially hard on women and people of color. The extreme poverty rate for women is more than 6 percent, the highest recorded in 22 years, and the poverty rate for black women is up a percentage point from 2009, to more than 25 percent.

Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, had this grim assessment of the new data: “The main message of today’s…income and poverty numbers from the Census Bureau is that, if we don’t like the way things are now, we better get used to it.”

Brookings scholar Isabell Sawhill, who crunched the numbers, estimates that by 2014, the “Great Recession” will have added an additional 10 million people to the ranks of the poor, six million of them children

The takeaway for liberals, of course, is that the country is in dire need of more economic stimulus, regardless of the debt situation.

“These numbers confirm what millions of Americans have long felt,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a statement. He added, “We cannot expect these trends to reverse themselves; concerted action is needed to create jobs and invest in vulnerable families if we are to ensure shared prosperity and opportunity for all.”

Sawhill estimates that President Obama’s jobs plan, if passed by Congress, could prevent about 3 million people from falling into poverty next year, largely by keeping people working, but also by extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. Continue reading