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Statement from Under Secretary Rebecca Blank on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in 2009


Thursday, September 16, 2010



Statement from Under Secretary Rebecca Blank on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in 2009

The Commerce Department's U.S. Census Bureau today released data on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in 2009.

“Today’s news is sobering, showing that 2009 was a year with increased poverty and rising numbers of uninsured Americans,” said U.S. Commerce Department Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank. “But many expected the news to be worse. Poverty rose less than expected, given the steep rise in unemployment during 2009, and median income was unchanged.

“There is one primary reason for the fact that poverty did not rise and median income did not fall as much as the rise in the unemployment rate would suggest: government assistance that moderated the effect of the recession on American families. Among the elderly, poverty actually fell, largely because of increased Social Security payments. Among working adults, expanded receipt of unemployment insurance helped cushion the affects of lost hours and jobs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided cash assistance as well as assistance with food and housing for low-income families. For instance, the poverty rate would have been 14.5 percent instead of 14.3 percent in the absence of the Recovery Act. This translates to approximately 485,000 people that the Recovery Act prevented from falling into poverty. The effects of this recession in 2009 would have been far worse if the Obama administration had not responded to help struggling families.”

The 2009 income, poverty and health insurance report shows that the official poverty rate increased from 13.2 percent in 2008 to 14.3 percent (43.6 million) in 2009. The percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased from 15.4 percent in 2008 to 16.7 percent in 2009. And the number of uninsured rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009. Median household income was $49,800 in 2009, virtually unchanged from 2008. Real median earnings of men and women who worked full time year-round increased between 2008 and 2009. Men were particularly hard hit in 2009, experiencing a larger increase in unemployment and a larger negative impact on earningsRelease