We’re Getting Poorer

The headline news from the Census bureau’s poverty numbers today is that median income continues to fall, a pretty significant 2.3% last year.

Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

So in addition to the rising commodity prices not counted in inflation, Americans are also suffering an inflation-like effect as their wages get smaller and smaller.

The other incredibly troubling piece of this news is that child poverty continues to increase–faster than for other age groups.

The poverty rate increased for children younger than 18 (from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22.0 percent in 2010) and people 18 to 64 (from 12.9 percent in 2009 to 13.7 percent in 2010), while it was not statistically different for people 65 and older (9.0 percent).

The kids, of course, are exposed to all sorts of developmental issues, with food scarcity and education inequality, which will haunt them for the rest of their life. When will our country start to get alarmed that over a fifth of our kids are in poverty?

There are a few more details of interest the Census release focused on, such as the number of “doubled up” households, which seems to tie closely to adult kids living at home.

  • Doubled-up households are defined as households that include at least one “additional” adult: a person 18 or older who is not enrolled in school and is not the householder, spouse or cohabiting partner of the householder. In spring 2007, prior to the recession, doubled-up households totaled 19.7 million. By spring 2011, the number of doubled-up households had increased by 2.0 million to 21.8 million and the percent rose by 1.3 percentage points from 17.0 percent to 18.3 percent.
  • In spring 2011, 5.9 million young adults age 25-34 (14.2 percent) resided in their parents’ household, compared with 4.7 million (11.8 percent) before the recession, an increase of 2.4 percentage points.

Also, as would be suspected but in what I believe is important to emphasize nevertheless, flyover country is getting poorer more quickly than the Northeast.

U.S.
$50,599 $49,445 *-2.3
Northeast
$53,949 $53,283 -1.2
Midwest.
$49,684 $48,445 *-2.5
South
$46,368 $45,492 *-1.9
West
$54,722 $53,142 *-2.9

This, I suspect, offers one explanation for why we’re not more worried about this. While a percentage drop in median income is real, unlike the rest of the country, it is not statistically significant.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    This is the kind of thing (when it becomes generally known) that breeds discontent, especially when MOTUs like Dimon complain about their insufficient bonuses, Tony Heyward wanting “his life back” [11 dead due to his driving the rig too hard] and the like.

    History is full of examples, the Pastoreaux, Wat Tyler, the Bastille, 1848, and so forth. Another commonality is that redress of grievances would normally be clamped down, leaving no other recourse. Kind of like the AG settlement talks where BofA walks away at less than a nickel on the dollar and no legal liability.

  2. Jim White says:

    So why are so many more people getting too lazy to make money? /snark

    The degree to which our country has lost all sense of empathy really makes me wonder where this ends. We soon will have an entire generation growing up without hope. And that bodes ill for us all.

  3. rugger9 says:

    @Jim White:
    I’ll agree wit the lack of empathy, and it is part of the Faux syndrome, because every RW blowhard from Limbaugh on down preaches the “I’ve got mine, to hell with you” theme and looks quite profitable doing it. It’s also a tenet of RW theology that God’s judgement of one’s worth is demonstrated by the size of the bank account.

    Jesus, for his part, as noted in the Gospels as well as contemporaneous docs like the Didache [teachings] embraced sinners, but not hypocrites and false prophets, and the Didache actually tells you how to spot a false prophet. The WWJD crowd wearing their faith on their sleeve (see Matthew about that) wouldn’t get the answers they think they’d get if the Second Coming happened now.

  4. avelna says:

    But heaven forbid that anyone should be allowed to have an abortion. Those fetuses are VIPs, the subsequent children, not so much.

Comments are closed.