Journalism in the Public Interest

Our Sputtering Economy by the Numbers: Poverty Edition

A snapshot of how Americans are faring economically more than two years after the recession.


People pick up lunch in the soup kitchen of St. Francis Center on Sept. 13, 2011, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Last month, we detailed the dismal state of the nation's economy. Now that the Census Bureau has released new poverty figures, we wanted to give you another snapshot of how Americans are faring more than two years after the recession.

Americans below the poverty line in 2010: 46.2 million

Official U.S. poverty rate in 2007, before the recession: 12.5 percent

Poverty rate in 2009: 14.3 percent

Poverty rate in 2010: 15.1 percent

Last time the poverty level was this high: 1993

Poverty line in 2010: $22,314 for a family of four, or $11,139 for an individual

Rough amount the poor are living on per week: $200 or less

Poverty rate in American suburbs: 11.8 percent, the highest since 1967

Percentage of the population making less than half the poverty line in 2010: 6.7 percent

Percentage of the population making less than half the poverty line in 2007, before the recession: 5.2 percent

Poverty rate for white Americans in 2010: 13 percent

Poverty rate for African-Americans in 2010: 27.4 percent

Real median household income in 2010: $49,445

Decline in median household income since 2009: 2.3 percent

Decline in median household income since before the recession: 6.4 percent

The last time median household incomes have been this low: 1996

Real median household income in 1999, in 2010 dollars: $53,252

Median income for full-time male workers in 2010: $47,715

Median income for full-time male workers in 1973, in 2010 dollars: $49,065

Official unemployment rate in August 2011: 9.1 percent

Total unemployed people in August: 14 million

People who were employed part-time for economic reasons in August 2011: 8.8 million

People not counted in the labor force who wanted work: 2.6 million

Net jobs created in August 2011: 0

Long-term unemployed people as of August 2011: 6 million

Unemployed workers per job opening as of July 2011: 4.34 (3.2 million openings and 13.9 million unemployed people)

Uninsured Americans in 2010: 49.9 million

Percentage of Americans without health insurance in 2010: 16.3 percent

Percentage of Americans without health insurance in 2007, before the recession: 15.3 percent

Percentage of children who were uninsured in 2010: 9.8 percent

Percentage of children in poverty who were uninsured in 2010: 15.4 percent

Percentage of American households that had enough to eat throughout the year in 2007: 88.9 percent

Percentage of American households that had enough to eat throughout the year in 2010: 85.5 percent

“Everyone has the right to freedom and self-determination, but they should hold themselves accountable for the duties of education and the responsibilities of wealth accumulation.”

From: “Poverty is a Choice: How and Why Millions Turn Their Backs on the American Dream”

hahahahahaha john james. wow

John James - you need to write that book and turn it into a movie.  It will be the best comedy in years.

Barry Schmittou

Sep. 20, 2011, 2:39 p.m.

Jacqueline I’m white and from farm country in Tennessee but I find quotes in your statement to seem possibly prejudiced and harsh.

One example is that while this article is about poverty, you wrote :
“well-fare is a tent city and soup kitchen. “I wonder if that would reform some of these women”

That seems like a very harsh thing to say.

You repeatedly talk about black people. Many people of African descent have many challenges in life and the stats in this article indicate the economic challenges are higher for them.

At the same time I admire the accomplishments many have achieved in the short time since segregation ended.

I personally believe that the powerful people who make trillions on the drug trade have contributed a great deal to the problems that many lower income Americans face.

Our legal system does a very poor job of providing justice, especially to the poor, and huge quantities of illegal drugs are destroying many lives in underprivileged areas.

I have recently learned that a shocking amount of very wealthy banks launder money for the drug dealers, including $378 billion dollars of Mexican cartel money that was laundered by Wachovia and no one was prosecuted.

Additionally, I worked in team management before I got eye cancer, and from my experience corporate America can be prejudiced in hiring any minority especially for management positions. They can also be prejudiced in paying women the same amount as men.

I do respect your right to your opinion Jacquelyn and I wish you the best. I just wanted to say that I hope we will all have empathy for those who are poor and underprivileged.

I believe we should “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” as written in Luke 6:31

There are many who are facing tremendous struggles to survive and doing so with great dignity, and many are struggling because our leaders have allowed corporate criminals to steal so many resources from average and poor citizens.

I pray God will be with us all in these times of great peril that lie ahead.

And yet the main stream media and the politicians continue to refer to the ‘recovery’.  They obviously think we are stupid and feel free to do whatever they want.  This will continue until the American people stand up and DEMAND that things change.

There are only two types of republicans, the very rich and those who have been convinced that the poorest among us are responsible for the state we’re now in. As the concentration of wealth becomes increasingly rarified, comes with it polit-speak to obscure the true facts. That’s what they’re paying for and they have been very effective at sending the message that it’s not them robbing the worlds wealth but some blind fat black kid who’s looking for a hand-out. Great critical thinking skills Joe the plumber on that one.
BS and keyboard courage from the Ayn Rand crowd will not change our collective fates, we’re in for a long and painful fall and Joe the plumber is going to end up at the bottom of the collective heap as he should be and pray all you want, and point fingers all you want but until you wise up and see who is truly causing this mess, you’ll stay at the bottom. Perhaps that’s where you should be for being so stupid.

“The Two Bums” by Fry Pan Jack

The bum on the rods is hunted down as an enemy of mankind
The other is driven around to his club, is feted, wined and dined

And they who curse the bum on the rods as the essence of all that’s bad
Will greet the other with a willing smile and extend a hand so glad

The bum on the rods is a social flea who gets an occassional bite
The bum on the plush is a social leech, bloodsucking day and night

The bum on the rods is a load so light that his weight we scarcely feel
But it takes the labour of dozens of folks to furnish the other a meal

As long as we sanction the bum on the plush the other will always be there
But rid ourselves of the bum on the plush and the other will dissappear

Then make an intelligent organised kick get rid of the weights that crush
Dont worry about the bum on the rods get rid of the bum on the plush

Censorship POS site!!!!!! What’s the matter can’t handle the truth!!!!

There is only one peaceful way out of all this. It will require tremendous will and sacrifice by everyone at all levels, so I’m not at all optimistic. Inflation, defined by printing more money, must stop immediately. Interest rates must be jacked up through the roof, as an interim measure, to get people saving again. Government spending must be cut 90% or more. No more wars, no more middle-class welfare, no more corporate welfare, no more cheap money. The national debt must be repudiated. Everyone holding government debt instruments will take the hit, and if any debt holders are to get paid, it will be the folks with the least means FIRST. The Too Big To Fail must fail. The currency must be made sound again. Back it with everything in Fort Knox, and that’s all she wrote. No more money creation, ever, except to replace bills worn in circulation (and those must be 100% redeemable in gold, so there’s no point in printing more). Drastically reduce trade barriers and eliminate all income taxes and minimum wage statutes.

Or, civil war and pestilence. Your choice. The Powers That Be are more than happy to make the choice for you.

Barbarian, I saw your comment before it was removed.  The world is not diminished for not having what boils down to you not liking black people.

Ike, the path you suggest is precisely what led to the American Revolution:  The Stamp Act meant less credit and debts repaid in gold.  That’s a windfall only for the gold dealers (and for a government in an era when international transactions use gold), because gold isn’t “sound.”  It inflates (sorry, it’s “reminted”) and requires an appraiser to tell you the composition of the metal and the actual weight.  It also can’t handle a growing population.

Paper/electronic money is fine and desirable for the modern world, just not when it’s created by a private monopoly.  A soverign government should never need to borrow, by definition.

As to the rest, government spending isn’t really the problem, its that the money is being spent on things that actively harm the American people.  The problem isn’t the size of government, it’s that we’ve allowed the government to increase its power over us and hand more power over to its cronies.

I don’t believe that all of us need to sacrifice, just the parasites who think that we should make do with less so that they can more cheaply heat their mansions and have manicured lawns to play golf on.  The elites have duped you into thinking that the alternatives are oppression or Malthusian crisis, and they’ll happily manufacture a crisis to get you to get on your knees.

Pat wrote: “There are only two types of republicans, the very rich and those who have been convinced that the poorest among us are responsible for the state we’re now in.”

This is a lie, and Pat is a liar.  The majority of Republicans are regular people who want to be left alone to live in peace.  They support charity for the sick and the poor, but they want that charity to be directed by volunteers who share similar values, and not directed by a legion of well-paid Washington pencil-pushers in their cushioned offices.

Charity, for those who’ve forgotten, is when you give your own time and money to help those less fortunate.  Charity is NOT kicking and screaming until the government takes somebody else’s money to do what you’re unwilling to do yourself.

People like Pat believe that education, health care, social services and charity are best left to faceless, nameless bureaucrats in faraway capitols.  People like me believe that these things are best done locally, by people who know one another, and are accountable to their neighbors for results.  And yet, people like Pat would have you believe that people like me are heartless and evil.

Most poverty in America is imaginary due to the fact that the definition of poverty itself is not based on actual deprivation, but on the strange notion that anyone making less than a certain percentage of median income is arbitrarily poor.

The interesting, and quite intentional, side effect of this definition is that no matter what the median income is, this artificially defined “poverty” never goes away.

Meanwhile actual poverty is so rare that almost no one knows what it looks like, hence the reason why the artificial definition is so widely used.  When you don’t know what something really is, it is easy for others to lie to you about it.

If you want to see REAL poverty, take a trip to the back woods of Appalachia, or to the 3rd world.  Then see how the lifestyle enjoyed by those living in “poverty” stacks up.

Poverty increases dependency on the state. Which political party benefits from having more people dependent on the government?  Anyone?

Both of them.

The problem with all of the nonsense Census data above on income, is that it isn’t really ‘income’ as normal people define it. It only includes their made-up phrase—‘money income,’ does not include benefits, stock or options or bonus programs at work, and does not include 96% of the benefits paid by the Federal Government to those polled.

Do you think the % of workers who get stock, options, and other benefits has gone up or down since 1996? Precisely.

Oh, and when you’re not one of the 75k people at home when they come to poll you? They make up the data - as much as 20% of responses according to their 304-page explanation of their data collecting, massaging, and “imputation methods.”

And the data is self-reported, which is crazy since we already have IRS data which shows a 72% gain in Real Income since 1979.

And they don’t adjust for household size, which has been clearly shrinking for decades.

And, they don’t adjust for the 13mm illegal immigrants that have showed up in recent years, and drag down the median figure.

If I’m self-reporting my income to a total stranger, my inclination is to tell them I make less than I do—especially if they are from the Feds, and most people would do the same.

Also, if asked by someone what their ‘cash income’ is, they may get confused and report after-tax instead of before-tax figures. [I make $55k but only take home $40k in cash, so…“I make $40k”]

What is most striking to me about the comments is the attitude that one person knowns exactly what is going through the mind of another person. 
It’s no wonder why we cannot have a dialogue as a nation: so much of the discourse is based upon supposition ... I would imagine that a more constructive route is rational discussion where people say what they mean and listen rather than the other party assuming that the person with whom they are speaking “really meant” to say the opposite of what they did.


ANONYMOUS, on September 22, 2011 at 5:52 am said:

“...Courts have held mortgage servicer is a debt collector if it acquired “loan” while in default. This would be the case for subprime “refinances” – albeit – false default.
Agree, of course, that not all loans were/are subprime. However, subprime was the catalyst for the financial crisis — by which its fraud caused “shock” to the system, eventually the economy, and which caused a spill-over of foreclosures. .
Even if loan was not a subprime — at some point, servicer ceases making advance payments and loan is removed from trust by which servicer claims to be servicing for. At this point, servicer begins “collection” for another entity via derivatives/contracts. Thus, current creditor obligated to divulge itself byTILA Amendment — since a “sale” of collection rights has occurred. Current creditor also subject to FDCPA — but, you have to know who that current creditor is — in order to apply the FDCPA.
In the past, GSEs easily disposed of non-performing “loans” — also by “credit enhancement” – whether a fabricated default or not. Today, 95% of all NEW mortgages are by GSEs. Much more difficult, today, to dispose of due to inability to perform insurance contracts — nevertheless, as conservator, that is the government’s goal — just as it is government’s goal by Maiden Lane.
Distressed debt buyers have been heralded since the days of Alan Greenspan — when he praised their function after 9/11. And, this is why government is reluctant to help homeowners. Doing so would mean that “contracts” privy to secrecy by deregulation — would have to be exposed — and, would subject participating parties to litigation – including prior fraud upon courts. .
Much could have been avoided had the government come in and “bailed out” homeowner victims – not the banks — at the financial crisis onset. As it now stands, many of those banks are in big trouble anyway — and the economy is not improving. Moody’s just downgraded the “too big to fail” banks. Cover-up at financial crisis onset — just prolonged the inevitable.
Eventually, government will have to address the fraud — and uphold the law as to current creditor/distressed debt buyer — because situation is not getting any better. At that point, BK courts will be filled — as unsecured debt will prevail.
Again, ask yourself, why did Congress vote down BK reform twice?? Because it would have just made BK too easy for homeowner victims.
As it stands, however, do not need reform — just need courts to uphold consumer protection and disclosure of current creditor.”

Might want our politicans to look at this as well.

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