More Americans are Poor than Ever Before, Census Finds

Published on
by
the McClatchy Newspapers

More Americans are Poor than Ever Before, Census Finds

by
Tony Pugh

WASHINGTON
- The withering recession pushed the number of Americans who are living
in poverty to a 51-year high in 2009 and left a record 50.7 million
people without health insurance last year, the Census Bureau announced
Thursday.

The 43.6 million Americans who were poor in 2009 -
up from 39.8 million the year before - was the most since poverty
estimates were first published in 1959. The national poverty rate of
14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008, was the highest since 1994.

Were
it not for federal intervention in the form of extended unemployment
insurance benefits, 3.3 million more people would have fallen into
poverty last year, said David Johnson, the chief of the Census Bureau's
division on housing and household economics.

Food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helped keep 2.3 million more people out of poverty.

Massive
job losses and work reductions for hourly employees led the number of
uninsured Americans to rise from 46.3 million people in 2008 to 50.7
million in 2009. The number of Americans who have health coverage
decreased - from 255 million in 2008 to 253.6 million in 2009 - for the
first time since the data began to be measured in 1987.

Most of
that decline stemmed from a loss in the percentage of people who have
private and job-based coverage. The number of people with either fell
from 201 million in 2008 to 194.5 million last year. The percentage with
job-based coverage fell from 58.5 percent in 2008 to 55.8 percent last
year, the lowest coverage rate since 1987.

As more people lost
jobs and were unable to afford private coverage, enrollment spiked in
government insurance programs such as Medicaid and the Children's Health
Insurance Program. In all, the number of people with
government-sponsored coverage went from 87.4 million in 2008 to 93.2
million last year.

ON THE WEB

Census report on income, poverty and health coverage in 2009

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