Poverty in the United States, 2008


Urban Institute

Nearly 40 million Americans, including 14 million children, were living in poverty in 2008, an increase to 13.2 percent of the population from 12.5 percent in 2007, according to new figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau and reported here by the Urban Institute.

Poverty rates increased for workers age 16 and over between 2007 and 2008 due to lower wages and fewer working hours. The rates for those who worked at all and those who only worked part-time rose from 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent, and 12.7 percent to 13.5 percent, respectively. The poverty rate stayed relatively the same for those who were able to work full-time, inching up from 2.5 percent in 2007 to 2.6 percent in 2008.

The drastic increase in the unemployment rate – from 7.6 percent at the beginning of 2009 to 9.7 percent in August 2009 – was the greatest increase in a generation, with a similar rapid rise in unemployment last occurring between 1974 and 1975. Such rates “bode ill for American families” and higher poverty rates can be expected in the coming year, the Urban Institute said in its commentary on the Census Bureau’s report.

The Census data show that child poverty went up from 18 percent in 2007 to 19 percent in 2008. Poverty rates increased most for Hispanic children – from 28.6 percent to 30.6 percent – but remained highest, and nearly unchanged, for black children, rising from 34.5 percent to 34.7 percent. The percentage of white, non-Hispanic children living in poverty grew from 10.1 percent to 10.6 percent. Free.



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