US census report is out and it is disheartening. The U.S. poverty rate rose to the highest level in almost two decades and household income fell in 2010, underscoring the lingering impact of the worst economic slump in seven decades.
Data released by the Census Bureau today showed the proportion of people living in poverty climbed to 15.1 percent last year from 14.3 percent in 2009, and median household income declined 2.3 percent. The number of Americans living in poverty was the highest in the 52 years since the U.S. Census Bureau began gathering that statistic. Those figures may have worsened in recent months as the economy weakened.
The ranks of people in poverty increased to 46.2 million from 43.6 million. The last time the poverty rate reached 15.1 percent was in 1993. It climbed to 15.2 percent in 1983. Median household income in 2010 was $49,445, down from $50,599 the year before.
The income figures declined even as the U.S. economy expanded 3 percent in 2010. Growth has slowed this year to an annual rate of less than 1 percent, sparking concern that the financial struggles of families will continue to worsen and hamper the recovery.
The number of those lacking health insurance increased to 49.9 million from 49 million, or about 16.3 percent of the population, a change the bureau said wasn’t statistically significant.
U.S. households have little to cheer about as job creation stagnated last month and hourly wages retreated. The unemployment rate has hovered at or above 9 percent for more than two years. Consumer confidence fell to the second-lowest level this year for the week that ended Sept. 4.
The data show that in 2010, a year when corporate profits were soaring and the economy was pulling out of recession, middle-class Americans continued to see their fortunes decline. The earnings of women who worked full time were about 77 percent of those of men, about the same gap as in 2009.
The growing poverty rate is likely to become an element of budget fights in Washington as a special committee of lawmakers looks to trim $1.5 trillion from the U.S. deficit during the next decade, and it may give momentum to calls from Democrats to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
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