National Poverty Rates Hits 15.1%, Highest Level Since 1993

As the recession took its toll last year, more Americans fell into poverty, saw their incomes decline and joined the ranks of the uninsured, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau released the results of its annual Current Population Survey today in a new report — the first to include a full year of data from the Great Recession. At the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, we have an analysis of the data, including a look at some state-level details.

During 2010, the national poverty rate increased to 15.1%, the highest level since 1993, with a record-breaking 46.2 million American adults and children living in poverty. Median household income also declined, and the number of individuals without health insurance increased again, now approaching 50 million.

Public programs continued to play an important role in blunting the full force of the economic downturn. An estimated 3.2 million Americans were kept out of poverty through unemployment insurance coverage, while public health programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) helped to fill the gap as employment-based coverage declined once again.

One bit of good news: more young adults had health insurance coverage in 2010 than the year before thanks to a provision of the Affordable Care Act allowing young adults up to age 25 to remain on their parents’ health insurance. The proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds with insurance rose from 70.7% in 2009 to 72.8% in 2010.

The overall story is similar in Pennsylvania. Median income has declined through the recession, and Pennsylvanians are losing employment-based health care at a fast rate. At 11.8%, total poverty in Pennsylvania is statistically unchanged since the recession began, although the rate is significantly higher in Pennsylvania since the last economic expansion, rising from 9% in 1999-2000 to 11.7% in 2009-2010.

(Data Note: With the Current Population Survey, we average two years worth of state-level data for greater accuracy. CPS data tend to give a better national level picture, while a forthcoming Census report due out on September 22 provides the most accurate data for states and localities.)

Get the full run down from our full analysis of today's Census report.

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