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Double Whammy: Recession Followed a Uniquely Painful Recovery

As a Center report explained last week, the new Census data for 2009 reflect the harsh impact of the recession, as poverty and the ranks of the uninsured grew considerably while median incomes among working-age households fell.

What’s gotten less attention is that these trends were not new. The recession followed an economic expansion in which the nation actually lost ground in all three areas.

The poverty rate was higher — and median income for working-age households lower — at the end of the 2001-2007 expansion than during the 2001 recession, as the table shows. Similarly, the number and share of Americans who are uninsured grew over the 2001-2007 period.


On some indicators, such as the child poverty rate and the percentage of Americans without health insurance, the adverse changes during the so-called recovery period of 2001-2007 were more than half as large as those in 2007-2009, during the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Such a dismal record during an expansion has never occurred since the federal government began collecting these figures, which in the case of the poverty data go back five decades.

In short, millions of Americans have suffered a one-two punch over the past decade, with the 2001-2007 recovery dragging people down even before the recession.