Last week, we highlighted our analysis of the Census Bureau’s new poverty data, in which we found that unemployment benefits kept many Americans out of poverty and economic hardship in 2009. Food stamps helped, too. In fact, the increase in the number of Americans with income below the poverty line is nearly three times as great if you don’t count unemployment benefits and food stamps as if you do.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
The Census Bureau data for 2009 reflect the severity of the recent recession, as poverty rose sharply and the number of uninsured spiked. The new figures somewhat overstate the rise in poverty, however, because they do not count the bulk of direct assistance that the 2009 Recovery Act provided to households, which kept millions of Americans from falling into — or deeper into — poverty (as a broader measure of poverty that Census will release later this year is sure to show).
The headline story in today’s Census Bureau report is the large jump in the poverty rate in 2009. But an exclusive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the new survey data shows that unemployment insurance benefits — which expanded substantially last year in response to the increased need — kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009.
We sat down with Arloc Sherman, Senior Researcher, to discuss what to look for in the Census Bureau’s upcoming release of data on poverty in 2009.
Here are three things to keep in mind in examining the official figures on poverty in 2009, which the Census Bureau will release on Thursday:
It’s no secret that with unemployment much higher than usual during the recession, a growing number of Americans are receiving food stamps to help them afford an adequate diet. In fact, the number of food stamp recipients has jumped by about 13 million (50 percent) since the start of the recession. But you might not know that the Food Stamp Program has handled this increase while becoming even more efficient, as a new Center report shows.
Several states, including Maryland and New Jersey, have reported a decline in their millionaire population in the past couple of years, and advocates for cutting taxes have been quick to argue that this shows high-income residents are fleeing to other states with lower taxes.
I recently wrote about new Congressional Budget Office data showing that over the past three decades, after-tax incomes jumped by a stunning 281 percent for the richest 1 percent of Americans, while rising just 25 percent and 16 percent for households in the middle and bottom of the income scale, respectively. The table gives the relevant dollar figures for different income groups. (All figures here are adjusted for inflation.)