U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2008 Income, Poverty, & Health Insurance Data

The U.S. Census bureau released new figures on poverty in 2008, showing that the official poverty rate increased to 13.2% in 2008 from 12.5% in 2007.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2008 national estimates of income, poverty, and health insurance in the United States. Based on data collected in the early part of 2008, the report reveals the early signs of the current recession, which began in late 2007, showing declining incomes, rising poverty rates, and an increase in the numbers of uninsured.

Real median household income declined by 3.6 percent, from a national median of $52,163 in 2007 to $50,303 in 2008 which represents the largest single-year decline on record, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The national poverty rate increased from 12.5 percent of the population in 2007 to 13.2 percent in 2008 - the first statistically significant change since 2004. The number of people in poverty also increased, with an estimated 39.8 million people living below the poverty line in 2008, the highest number of people living below the poverty line since 1960, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Even more disquieting is the rise in deep poverty - those with incomes at or less than half of the federal poverty line. More than 17 million people were living in deep poverty in 2008, translating into 5.7 percent of the population, up from 5.2 percent in 2007.

While the percent of people who are uninsured remained the same, the number of people who are uninsured rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008. The worsening of these factors lends support to the Alliance's prediction that more people will become homeless as a result of the current recession.

Luckily, since the beginning of the recession (now defined as late 2007), several steps have been taken to alleviate some of the financial burden facing vulnerable American families.

In May 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the HEARTH Act, which reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs and made substantial change in improving and streamlining the programs and - notably - created an emphasis on homelessness prevention in these programs.

In February 2009, the President created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program as a part of the $8 billion stimulus, which allocated money for prevention, housing, and other homeless assistance services to communities across the country. The program is being run through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Hopefully, actions like these will curtail the number of people who fall into homelessness during the recession and assist those who do to quickly find housing again and get back on their feet. In the meantime, however, it is clear from these number and reports like this that the need for improved services is ever-growing.

More information about the details of the report can be found on the Census's Web site