Census Reports U.S. Poor Getting Poorer

The poor in the U.S. could use their own Robin Hood as U.S. Census data shows income inequality in on the rise in 20 states. The U.S. Census Bureau released its 2011 American Community Survey today, which includes demographic information on U.S. residents in 40 different topics. The report not only included key information on residents’ ancestry, language, education, occupation, housing and economy, but it also contained three supplemental reports which detailed America’s income-level, poverty-level and health insurance coverage. The results were alarming.

The first supplemental report, “Household Income for States: 2010 and 2011,” median annual household income varied by state from Mississippi—the lowest—at $36,919, to Maryland—the highest—at $70,004. Granted the cost of living varies by state, as well. In fact, 27 states’ median annual household incomes were lower than the median for the U.S.–$50,502—and 19 states had a median income higher than the nation’s. The remaining four states’ and the District of Columbia’s median household incomes did not vary from that of the nation.

More concerning, however, is the fact that only one state—Vermont—saw its median household income increase between 2010 and 2011. Plus, the median household income actually declined in 18 states, ranging from a 1.1-percent decrease in Ohio to a 6-percent income drop in Nevada. Furthermore, income inequality—the Gini Index—rose in 20 states and did not change in the others.

The Census Bureau’s second supplemental report, “Poverty: 2010 and 2011,” confirmed poverty is a growing epidemic in the U.S. Not only did the national poverty level increase from 15.3 percent in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2011, both the number and percentage of residents living below the poverty level increased in 17 states. Sadly, it was the fourth-consecutive national increase and third-consecutive annual increase in 10 states. Five other states saw the number of impoverished residents increase but not the poverty rate.

“To see the poverty rate jump almost a full percentage point is not a good sign,” David R. Jones, the president of the Community Service Society of New York, an antipoverty advocacy and research group, told the New York Times. “We’re still seeing really high rates of unemployment, while jobs have been growing in an anemic way and the jobs that have been created are really low-wage.”

Poverty is defined as a family of four with an annual income of $23,021 or less. In 2011, about 48.5 million Americans lived in poverty, and about 20 percent of American children were classified as poor. Sadly, the percentage of Americans whose income falls 125-percent below the poverty level also grew from 20.1 percent in 2010 to 20.8 percent in 2011. Furthermore, the percentage of Americans who live 50-percent below the poverty level also increased from 6.8 percent to 7.1 percent in the same period.

Nationwide, Mississippi holds the highest poverty rate at 22.6 percent, and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas is the most impoverished community with a 37.7-percent poverty rate. Contrarily, New Hampshire is the least impoverished state—only 8.8 percent of residents live below the poverty level. Likewise, the Washington metro area has the lowest poverty rate of all communities with populations of 500,000 or more, at a mere 8.3 percent.

In its final supplemental report, the Census Bureau examined America’s health coverage. According to “Health Insurance Coverage of Young Adults Aged 19 to 25: 2008, 2009, and 20011,” more adults aged 19 to 25 are insured now than three years ago. Specifically, in 2009 68.3 percent of young adults were insured, compared to 71.8 percent in2011. However, the rate of insured adults aged 26 to 29 decreased from 71.1 percent in 2009 to 70.3 percent in 2011.