Income Poverty: One in Three Americans Lacks the Income Needed to Make Ends Meet

… Young Adults Among Hardest Hit – Published on Global, by Shawn Fremstad, Sept. 18, 2010.

… There is broad recognition that the current poverty line ($21,756 for a family of four in 2009) falls far below the amount of income needed to “make ends meet” at a basic level.1 When established in the early 1960s, the poverty line was equal to nearly 50 percent of median income. Because it has only been adjusted for inflation since then, and not for increases in mainstream living standards, the poverty line has fallen to just under 30 percent of median income. As a result, to be counted as officially “poor,” you have to be much poorer today, compared to a typical family, than you would have in the 1960s … //

… Health Insurance: 

The number of people without health insurance rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009. The increase in uninsurance would have been much larger had public health insurance programs not taken up much of the slack. The number of people covered by private insurance fell from nearly 201 million in 2008 to 194.5 million in 2009; this decline was offset by a nearly 5 million person increase in the share of people covered by Medicaid and military health care programs.

Impact of Social Insurance, Recovery Act and Other Policies:

It’s important to note that these numbers largely do not reflect legislation enacted in 2009 and 2010 to boost job growth and increase economic security. While the Recovery Act was signed into law in the first quarter of 2009, most of the financial assistance provided by it to low- and moderate-income households comes in forms (including tax credits and in-kind assistance) that are not factored into the official poverty and median income numbers. In addition, many of the investments in the Recovery Act were not made until the latter half of 2009 and this year. The impact of these investments will only show up in the figures for 2010 (released this time next year) and in subsequent years.

Finally, health care reform, which will, among other things, ultimately extend public health insurance to nearly all currently uninsured Americans with incomes below 125 percent of the poverty line, and provide subsidies for insurance up to 400 percent of the poverty line, has only begun to be implemented. Most of the expansions in coverage will not occur until 2014. Many uninsured young adults, however, will benefit next year from a health care reform provision that allows them to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26 … (full text).

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