by Neil Donovan, Executive Director
The US Census Bureau announced the finding from its annual report: Income Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. The Census reported a poverty rate of 14.3% or 43.6 million Americans, slightly lower than the grim predictions of 14.8 to 15 percent. The 14.3% poverty rate jumped from last year’s 13.2 and is the highest rate since 1994.
The new poverty rate is the clearest indicator-to-date to prove that social constraints prevent those living in poverty from working and just as clearly refutes the notion that those living in poverty choose to not work, though given the opportunity.
The 2009 report will be the last year, since the reporting began in1959, when only certain categories of under-reporting will occur. Beginning next year, the Census will publish figures that take into account the rising costs of medical care, transportation and child care. National poverty figures will certainly show an ever higher poverty rate after factoring the new supplemental data.
The Census further omits the impact of significant elements of the Recovery Act. While factoring household cash income received through unemployment insurance benefits, the Census leaves out household assistance received from tax credits and other non-cash benefits, such as food stamps.
Given the proposed changes to future annual reports, it is evident that the Census Bureau has wrestled with establishing a truer measure of poverty in America. However, the Census fails to address the critical importance of poverty, as a fluid and dynamic condition. A weakened economy almost assures a continued rise in the poverty rate next year, unless the soon to be expiring Recovery Act’s substantial benefits and tax credits for workers are renewed. The poverty rate is useful only in so far as it relates to other socio-economic rates and conditions. Announcing the poverty rate alone perpetuates the unexplained bifurcation of the American populous: the widening socioeconomic gap between rich and poor.
Read more at Change.org