Poverty Up for American Women and Children: Census 2009 Data Released

September 22, 2010
by Ann Racuya-Robbins - Results Domestic Intern

iThe Census 2009 Poverty and Health Insurance Data released September 16 has painted a grim and sober picture in numbers about poverty in America along with important insights into what has worked to reduce the some of the impact. Of course these numbers do not speak about those working and near the poverty line or the impact on feelings of hope and dignity.

About 44 million Americans (14.3 percent) live below the official poverty line ($21,947 for a family of four). The largest number of those below the official poverty line continues to be American women and American women with children — shockingly, 20.3 percent of all children live in poverty. One in four African Americans, one in five Latinos, and as high as one of every two Native Americans live in poverty. The number of American men in poverty rose sharply due to unemployment in certain job sectors. The number of elderly in poverty actually declined due to Social Security and Medicare. More information including geographical difference will be contained in the American Community Survey set to be released by the end of September. According to Avis Jones-DeWeever Executive director of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) “1 in 4 are African American, 1 in 5 are Latino and as high as 1 in 2 are Native American.” According to Ron Haskins, Co-Director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute, those below the line included a 35% increase in never been married mothers that are working.

Because the “official poverty measure” does not include tax credits or non-cash benefits such as food stamps (SNAP) the success of the Recovery Act’s mitigating the recession by increases to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) and food stamps are NOT recorded. The new Supplemental Poverty Measure requested by Obama would begin to measure these critical safeguards.

In 2009 the number of Americans without health insurance rose by 4.3 million the largest single-year increase since records have been kept staring in 1987; over 50 million Americans were uninsured. Much of this is due to a decline in employer-based insurance coverage. Importantly, the number of children and the elderly, the main groups covered by Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare DID NOT increase: this shows how that the work that RESULTS advocates and may others have done to strengthen public health insurance programs has made a difference.

Unemployment Insurance kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009 according to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund that provided for subsidized employment projects, creating 250,000 jobs some of which became permanent. In Illinois, for example, 30,000 jobs were created and 60,000 applied, showing that people wanted to work and would if employment were available. These provisions will expire at the end of this month and those 30,000 jobs will be lost.

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