Grim new economic data:
The number of Americans living in poverty increased by nearly 2.6 million to 13.2% in 2008 -- a stark reminder of the toll the recession was already taking on families even before the economic picture worsened this year.
Millions more thrust into poverty
Last year's 39.8 million poor people comprise the highest number of Americans living in poverty since 1960. As bad as that number is, the overall poverty rate is almost certainly worse today than it was in 2008 when the recession was first getting underway -- the period reflected by the Census data.
Unemployment averaged 5.8% last year compared with the August rate of 9.7%. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that assuming an average unemployment rate of 9.3 percent for 2009, poverty would increase to 14.7%. Higher unemployment will hit children disproportionately hard. Their poverty is expected to rise from 19% in 2008 to 25% this year, which translates into one in four children living in poverty.
In a family of three that means trying to provide children with a roof over their heads, adequate health care and a nutritious diet on an annual income of $17,163. Still worse, the proportion of children living below half the poverty line ($8,600 for a family of three) is rising steeply, from 6.4% in 2000 to 8.5% in 2008.
The huge increase in poverty clearly points out the need for continuing aid to help the unemployed and states struggling to maintain vital services in the face of growing need.
"If we invest in health care, education, and rebuilding communities, we will create jobs and renew our economy," said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. "Failure to act is a moral wrong, since it causes preventable harm to vulnerable people. Inaction is a practical wrong as well, because consigning tens of millions to poverty, with no protections against sickness and debt, drags our economy down and further delays our recovery."
Read the Washington Post report here.