As I have pointed out previously, one of the cherished right-wing claims – that there is no poverty in America or what poverty exists is negligible – is a fantasy.
Yesterday, the US Census Bureau released the 2010 figures on poverty in America (the full report can be found here). This is significantly more recent than the 2007 pre-Lesser Depression data used by the right-wing Heritage Foundation in its own report on poverty.
The data is depressing. The Census Bureau summarizes:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2010, median household income declined, the poverty rate increased and the percentage without health insurance coverage was not statistically different from the previous year.
Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.
The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
In other words, there are 2.6 million more people in poverty today than a year ago. That’s two million, six hundred thousand people. And for the rest, the median income has actually declined. That certainly qualifies as evidence for the death of the American worker.
A few other choice bits:
Since 2007, the year before the most recent recession, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent and is 7.1 percent below the median household income peak that occurred prior to the 2001 recession in 1999. The percentages are not statistically different from each another.
Based on the Gini Index, the change in income inequality between 2009 and 2010 was not statistically significant, while the changes in shares of aggregate household income by quintiles showed a slight shift to more inequality. The Gini index was 0.469 in 2010. (The Gini index is a measure of household income inequality; zero represents perfect income equality and 1 perfect inequality.)
The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest since 1993 but was 7.3 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points.
In 2010, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.7 percent and 9.2 million, respectively, up from 11.1 percent and 8.8 million in 2009.
The poverty rate and the number in poverty increased for both married-couple families (6.2 percent and 3.6 million in 2010 from 5.8 percent and 3.4 million in 2009) and female-householder-with-no-husband-present families (31.6 percent and 4.7 million in 2010 from 29.9 percent and 4.4 million in 2009). For families with a male householder no wife present, the poverty rate and the number in poverty were not statistically different from 2009 (15.8 percent and 880,000 in 2010).
The poverty rate increased for children younger than 18 (from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22.0 percent in 2010) and people 18 to 64 (from 12.9 percent in 2009 to 13.7 percent in 2010), while it was not statistically different for people 65 and older (9.0 percent).
Similar to the patterns observed for the poverty rate in 2010, the number of people in poverty increased for children younger than 18 (15.5 million in 2009 to 16.4 million in 2010) and people 18 to 64 (24.7 million in 2009 to 26.3 million in 2010) and was not statistically different for people 65 and older (3.5 million).
Since 2010 represents the first full calendar year after the recession that ended in June 2009, one can compare changes in income, poverty and health insurance coverage between 2009 and 2010 with changes during the first year after the end of other recessions:
- Median household income declined the first full year following the December 2007 to June 2009 recession, as well as in the first full year following three other recessions (March 2001 to November 2001, January 1980 to July 1980 and December 1969 to November 1970). However, household income increased the first full year following the November 1973 to March 1975 recession, and the changes following the July 1990 to March 1991 and July 1981 to November 1982 recessions were not statistically significant.
- The poverty rate and the number of people in poverty increased in the first calendar year following the end of the last three recessions. For the recessions that ended in 1961 and 1975, the poverty rate decreased in the next full calendar year.
- After the most recent recession, there was no significant difference in the uninsured rate during the first full year after the recession. However, in the year following the recessions that ended in 1991 and 2001, the uninsured rate increased.
So to recap that: the poverty rate has increased, median wages are declining, and inequality remains at its present crippling levels. Also bear in mind that our job creation rates remain pitifully low (insufficient even to keep up with population growth), the quality of jobs being created are low (many are minimum wage and/or part-time), and that the workforce is dividing up more and more into those who work multiple jobs to keep their heads above water and those who have no job and cannot acquire one at all (an army of the long-term unemployed).
For more recent information on the long-run rise of inequality, Media Matters also has their own posting. The Census data looks only at the 2010 year, which is part of why it states that inequality has not seen a “statistically significant” change, even if it looks like it has gone up somewhat. In reality, over the course of the last several years or even decades, inequality has risen dramatically. The poor make less, the average worker makes roughly the same, and the various levels of rich all make significantly more than they did in the 70s.
The Center for American Progress also put out a memo posting declaring that the recent Census data “should be a wake-up call for Congress to put a laser-like focus on creating jobs and protecting the landmark Affordable Care Act. Investing in programs and policies to help low—income Americans and reverse a decade of growing poverty is an important strategy to boost employment and rebuild the middle class.”
Unfortunately, thanks to the tendency among right-wingers and their various pseudo-intellectual fantasy justification agencies such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, it is likely this will be taken as yet another clarion call to declare that reality is not real.
Of course, given the downward trend in this country, reality will eventually refute their fantastic claims on a practical level. One can only lay one’s head on the railroad tracks for so long before an oncoming train proves, contrary to one’s claims, that it is not “perfectly safe.”