Recession Puts More People in Poverty

Sep 29, 2009

By Gina Turrini

While few Americans are untouched by the recession,  the recent release of 2008 national  and state Census poverty data hint at just how hard the economic crisis is hitting low-income families.

In 2008, the national poverty rate jumped to 13.2 percent, the highest level since 1997, according to the Current Population Survey.  More than 39 million Americans now live in poverty, an increase of 1.1 million from 2007, according to the  American Community Survey, the Census tool that is best for state-level data.  This increase does not reflect the continued and even deeper deterioration of the economy that has occurred in 2009.

Experts anticipate that poverty will continue to grow through 2012, potentially reaching 14.4 percent. The 2009 federal response to the recession - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - will avert poverty for millions.  Indeed, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities conservatively projects that 6 million Americans avoided falling under the poverty line in 2009 because of provisions in the law.

For states, the recession creates particular budget challenges, but they can take actions that have less budgetary impact than others. States can increase child-care subsidies, remove barriers to food assistance, modernize unemployment insurance programs, adopt work share programs, and establish paid leave. See Tapping into Resources for more information on how these programs address poverty.

While the recession has caused an increase in poverty, the fact is that before the recession, one in eight of us fell below the official federal poverty line, and millions more faced hardship above it. Thus, it is vital that state and federal policymakers not only address the immediate effects of the recession on vulnerable Americans, but also commit to adequate, long-term investments in communities and programs that allow families to move out of poverty and beyond and become more economically secure.  

Promoting opportunity for all Americans will require sustained, long-term investments in programs that help children, youth and families thrive, create a strong and modern safety net and build supportive pathways to good jobs for low-income youth and adults. Read CLASP's Federal Policy Recommendations for 2009 and Beyond for more details.


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