Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U.S. poverty rate expected to increase

Census figures due to be released next month will show an increase in the U.S. poverty rate. The numbers are sure to throw a whole new spin on the health insurance debate in Washington, for both sides of the isle.

From this Associated Press article that we found at Oregon Live, writer Hope Yen interviews a government worker about the numbers.

Rebecca Blank, the Commerce Department's undersecretary of economic affairs, spoke to The Associated Press in advance of next month's closely watched release of 2008 census data. Noting the figures are not yet final, Blank said the numbers will likely show a "statistically significant" increase in the poverty rate, to at least 12.7 percent. That would represent a jump of more than 1.5 million poor people last year.

"There's no question that 2008 economically was a much worse year than 2007," she said Wednesday. "The question is how much and how bad."

The number of Americans without medical insurance is also expected to notably increase due largely to rising unemployment and the erosion of private coverage paid for by employers and individuals, but Blank declined to say by how much. In 2007, the number of uninsured fell by more than 1 million mostly because government programs such as Medicaid for the poor picked up the slack.

The census figures, set to be released Sept. 10, could have important ramifications as Congress returns from its August recess to debate health reform, its cost, and the ways to pay for it. Republicans also have traditionally pointed to the intractable poverty rate as a sign that government programs do not work, a claim likely to be repeated often in light of the federal economic stimulus package.

In a 30-minute interview, Blank said the census figures released next month could possibly understate the actual number of poor people, since the poverty rate is a lagging indicator that tends to accelerate over time. As a result, the 2008 data could prove to be the tip of the iceberg, with more significant declines reflected in 2009 figures released next year.

She estimated earlier this year that poverty could eventually hit roughly 14.8 percent or more if unemployment reaches 10 percent as some analysts predict-or nearly one out of every seven Americans.

1 comment:

karen said...

How do you (or do you) envision the churches in the US being involved in eradicating domestic poverty?