Today’s Census Bureau report on 2010 paints an unvarnished picture of the economic state of the union, and it’s not pretty.
The report confirms the damage done by the Wall Street debacle in 2008. The median income of American households fell by 6.4% from 2007. The median household income is 7.1% lower than it was at its peak, which occurred twelve years ago –in 1999. When you hear people talk about the “Lost Decade,” that’s what they mean.
The number of Americans in poverty jumped to 15.1% in 2010. A total of 46.2 million Americans were in poverty. That’s about 1 in every 6. The poverty rate grew almost 3 million from 2009, when 43.6 million, or 14.3 percent of Americans, were in poverty. The 2010 poverty level is the highest since 1983. More Americans are in poverty today than there were in 1959; but at least the rate has declined from around 23% in 1959.
But even these frightening statistics do not tell the whole story. Buried in the data was the fact that nearly a quarter of American families experienced “a poverty spell” lasting two or more months during 2009.
One measure of America has always been its promise of a better life for each succeeding generation. That principle is endangered too, the report shows. Twenty-two percent of Americans under 18 years old are in poverty. And the number of 25 to 34 year olds living with their parents rose 25% between 2007 and 2011.
Finally, the report contains some interesting demographic data pertinent to the politics of health care reform. Since 1987, the total number of Americans without health insurance has increased 40% – but remains at roughly 16% of the nation. Most Americans still get their health coverage from employers, but that number has dropped to 53% from about 65% in the late 1990s. A third of Americans are covered by government programs – a roughly 30% increase from 1987.
For people who feel like America is headed in the wrong direction, these numbers agree.