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Almost 44 million Americans living below the poverty line
The number of Americans living in poverty has jumped to one in seven.


Paul Koring; Washington — Globe and Mail; Published Thursday, Sep. 16, 2010
Original Article

No job; No food; little hope
In the grimmest accounting in 15 years, nearly 44 million recession-battered Americans were living beneath the poverty line last year, as families lost jobs and homes in record numbers.

And the disheartening news may be even worse than the stark numbers portray because the very poor, the homeless and those illegally in the country tend to be undercounted by the Census Bureau.

President Barack Obama said things would have been far worse had it not been for the hundreds of billions spent on stimulus programs and tax cuts. “Millions of Americans were kept out of poverty last year,” Mr. Obama said, adding that the economic damage was done before he entered the White House. “Our economy plunged into recession almost three years ago on the heels of a financial meltdown and a rapid decline in housing prices.”

Still, the numbers paint a bleak picture as Democrats gird for a drubbing from disgruntled voters in November’s midterm elections.

“Last year we saw the depths of the recession,” the President acknowledged, “including historic losses in employment not witnessed since the Great Depression.”


Cracks in the American Dream
3.8 million: This is the number of additional Americans who slid below the poverty line in 2009, bringing the total to 43.6 million, the highest number ever counted since the Census Bureau began tallying poverty in 1959. While the poverty rate has climbed for the past three years to 14.3 per cent – the highest level since 1994 – it remains far below the 22.4 per cent when poverty rates were first tabulated 51 years ago.

$420.17: A family of four with income of this amount or less a week is considered below the poverty line, which is $21,594 annually. That includes income plus government payouts such as unemployment insurance, but not food stamps.

31.6%: This is the percentage of American families that tasted poverty for at least a couple of months some time in the past four years. While poverty is often – and wrongly – regarded as a trap with no exit, in the United States at least, income fluctuations are the norm. “Chronic poverty was relatively uncommon, with [only] 2.2 per cent of the population living in poverty all 48 months of the period” between 2004 and 2007, the bureau found.

2.74: This is the rate at which African Americans were more likely to live in poverty than whites. Last year, more than a quarter of all African Americans – 25.8-per cent – lived below the poverty line, compared with 9.4 per cent of whites. Latinos have a similar rate to African Americans, with 25.3 per cent living in poverty. The same disparity applies in median household incomes – $54,461 for white, $32,695 for African American and $38,039 for Latino households.

50.7 million: That’s the number of people living without health insurance in the United States last year, the highest number ever recorded – up more than 4.4 million in the year Mr. Obama’s sweeping and controversial health-care reform package was passed. But many of its provisions won’t take effect and millions who lost jobs lost employer-provided health care while other recession-battered companies ceased offering health coverage. Overall, 194.5 million Americans had private health-care coverage; another 93.2 million, mostly children and the elderly, were covered by government plans.