Household income drops to lowest point since '96The median income of U.S. households fell 2.3% in 2010 to the lowest level since 1996 after adjusting for inflation, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
The annual report also said the number of families living in poverty rose 2.6 million to 46.2 million, the largest increase since Census began keeping track 52 years ago. Long-term unemployment has left millions of people out of work and struggling to find jobs.
"It's all about joblessness," said Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for the Research of Poverty at the University of Wisconsin. "Young guys don't have work, and poverty would be even higher if so many 25- to 34-year-olds weren't living at home with their parents."
The weak economy has driven household income down for three straight years, to $49,445 in 2010, a total 6.4% decline since the recession began in December 2007. The government says the recession ended in June 2009.
Poor people and minorities were hit hardest. Median income for black households fell 3.6% to $32,206 while white household income dropped 1.3% to $54,620.
Income fell least for the most affluent households — down 1.2% to $180,810 in 2010 for the top 5% of households. Income declines got increasingly large down the income ladder. The bottom fifth of households — those making $20,000 or less in 2010 — saw incomes decline 3.8% after inflation.
"There is a widening of the gap between the extreme top and bottom," said Edward Welniak, chief of income statistics at the Census.
The release of the data comes as President Obama pushes Congress to pass a $447 billion jobs creation proposal that he unveiled last week. Obama was in Ohio on Tuesday selling his jobs plan in the key battleground state.
The report showed that a record number of women live in poverty and extreme poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5% in 2010 from 13.9% in 2009, the highest in 17 years, according to an analysis by the National Women's Law Center.
The extreme poverty rate for women jumped to an all-time high of 6.3% in 2010 from 5.9% in 2009.
"The record numbers of women and families living in extreme poverty and without health insurance should send an urgent wake-up call to Congress to tackle the immediate deficit facing this nation — the lack of jobs — by acting swiftly on President Obama's job creation proposals and passing a robust package that will put millions of American women and men back to work," said Joan Entmacher, NWLC vice president for Family Economic Security.
The report showed the share of people without health insurance rose from 16.1% to 16.3%, 49.9 million people. The number of people with private insurance fell while the number covered by government programs increased.
Congress passed a health care overhaul last year to deal with rising numbers of the uninsured. Though the main provisions do not take effect until 2014, one aspect taking effect in late 2010 allowed young adults until age 26 to be covered under their parents' health insurance.
Brett O'Hara, chief of the Health and Disability Statistics branch at the Census Bureau, noted that the uninsured rate for adults ages 18 to 24 declined last year, from 29.3% to 27.2%. It was the only age group that posted a decrease. (OBAMA'S Health Care is working!) "For the change in uninsured, the law change certainly could be a factor," he said.
Broken down by state, Mississippi had the highest share of poor people, at 22.7%. It was followed by Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Georgia, New Mexico and Arizona. (Check who is in control of the state legislatures.)
Audience at tea party debate cheers leaving uninsured to die (CNN Tea Party debate 9/12/2011 Tampa Florida).
If you're uninsured and on the brink of death, that's apparently a laughing matter to some audience members at the tea party Republican presidential debate.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a doctor, was asked a hypothetical question by CNN host Wolf Blitzer about how society should respond if a healthy 30-year-old man who decided against buying health insurance suddenly goes into a coma and requires intensive care for six months. Paul--a fierce limited-government advocate-- said it shouldn't be the government's responsibility. "That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks," Paul said and was drowned out by audience applause as he added, "this whole idea that you have to prepare to take care of everybody …"
(Why the tea party is called a right wing extremist group! What tax cuts have caused is a cheering matter from what is now the base of the Republican Party.)