Spotlight Exclusives

Number of Americans Living in Poverty Jumps to 13.2 Percent

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New Census Bureau data released today shows that in 2008, 13.2 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. This translates to 39.8 million people in poverty in 2008, compared to 37.3 million the year before. To put it in perspective, the number of people who moved below the poverty line in 2008 2.5 million is more than the populations of Detroit and San Francisco combined.

The new poverty figures are the first official numbers to capture the economic impact of the recession on American families. Even before the release of the Census data, former Spotlight advisor and the current Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank, projected the poverty rate would rise to at least 12.7 percent. But the particularly large increase surprised some economists who believe the 2008 data represents only the tip of the iceberg and that far worse numbers reflecting this year۪s growing unemployment are yet to come. In August, unemployment hit 9.7 percent, up from an overall unemployment rate in 2008 of 5.8 percent.

The Census Bureau report also found that median household income fell from $52,163 to $50,303 that۪s a drop of 3.6 percent and a dramatic reversal of income growth among U.S. households.

Today۪s numbers are particularly alarming given that even before the current recession and during the economic expansion of 2001 2007, poverty rates were higher than at the end of the 2001 recession.

Census also released data on health care coverage showing that the overall rate of uninsured did not shift dramatically. Notably, while the rate of uninsured adults rose, the rate and number of uninsured children declined as more moved into public insurance programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP.

To read what people are saying about the new poverty figures on Twitter, click here.

To read the new Census Bureau report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008, click here.

Posted by Helina


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn۪t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and its impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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