America

U.S. Census Bureau Reports Highest Poverty Rate Since 1994: 14.3 Percent

This morning, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report on income, poverty and health insurance in the U.S. The poverty rate in 2009 rose by 1.1 percent, to 14.3 percent.

According to the agency, "there were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive increase."

What makes someone poor, or in bureaucratic-speak, what is the "poverty threshold"? The Census Bureau explains, using numbers from the Consumer Price Index. For a family of four, for example, the weighted average poverty threshold was $21,954.

What can we take from these numbers? The poverty increased across most demographic groups, including race and age. There were a couple of exceptions. Asians had a poverty rate of 12.5 percent, pretty much in line with what it was in the 2008 report, and among senior citizens, 65 and older, the poverty rate dropped .8 percent, to 8.9 percent in 2009.

NPR's Pam Fessler previewed the report on Morning Edition. She said that bad job numbers certainly contributed to the numbers, but "we also simultaneously had the collapse of the housing market, problems with the financial market — all things that work together to hit people on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder most."

You can listen to her conversation with NPR's Linda Wertheimer here, and you can read the full Census Bureau report after the jump.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.