Quick Takes | Health

EPI experts respond to new data on income, poverty and health insurance

This morning’s release by the U.S. Census Bureau of the 2009 income and poverty numbers is yet another reminder of the severity of the Great Recession that began in December 2007. Between 2007 and 2009, the real income of the median working-age household fell by $2,674, from $58,495 to $55,821. The labor market is the core building block of household incomes — when the labor market falters and people lose work, household incomes drop. The data released today are a clarion call for Congress to do more to create jobs so the people of this country have the work they need to provide for their families. –Heidi Shierholz
After nearly a decade of neglect that ended with the most severe recession since the Great Depression, it is no surprise that poverty hit its highest rate since 1994. In 2009, one in seven people were in poverty, and one in five children were in poverty. For those over 65, on the other hand, poverty is at an all-time low. Social Security provides seniors with an income that insulates them against severe economic downturns like the Great Recession. Today’s numbers show that the social safety net, which was boosted by the Recovery Act, is critical.–Elise Gould
The steady erosion of employer-sponsored insurance in the 2000s became a landslide in 2009 when the unemployment rate took its largest one-year jump on record. 6.6 million fewer Americans had job-based health insurance last year than in 2008. Public insurance and critical provisions in the Recovery Act mitigated the damage, to an extent—the number of uninsured Americans rose by only about two thirds that amount, or 4.3 million. –Elise Gould