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Poverty statistics you need to know!

“The greatest threat to America’s national security comes from no enemy without, but from our own failure to protect, invest in, and educate all of our children who make up all of our futures in this global economy…[As a nation] we need to invest now in child health, early childhood development, and education. For today is tomorrow.”

Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder, Children’s Defense Fund

Poverty in the United States

    • In 2009, 43.6 million people were poor, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty. The nation’s official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 — the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004. (Census Bureau 2010a p.13)
    • The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.(Census Bureau 2010a p.13)
    • Between 2008 and 2009, the poverty rate increased for children under the age of 18 from 19.0 percent to 20.7 percent. Thus, one in five children in the United States lives in poverty. Almost half of these children (9.3 percent) live in extreme poverty. (Census Bureau 2010a p.13)
    • In 2009, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.1 percent and 8.8 million, respectively, up from 10.3 percent and 8.1 million in 2008. (Census Bureau 2010a p.18)
    • 19 million Americans (6.3 percent) live in extreme poverty. This means their family’s cash income is less than half of the poverty line, or less than about $11,000 a year for a family of four. (Census Bureau 2010a p.19)
    • 16 million low-income households paid more for rent and either utilities than the federal government says is affordable or lived in overcrowded or substandard housing (CBPP 2007).
    • The percentage of people without health insurance increased to 16.7 percent in 2009 from 15.4 percent in 2008. The number of uninsured people increased to 50.7 million in 2009 from 46.3 million in 2008 (Census Bureau 2010a p. 22)
    • Between 2008 and 2009, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 8.6 percent to 9.4 percent), for Blacks (from 24.7 percent to 25.8 percent), and for Hispanics (from 23.2 percent to 25.3 percent). For Asians, the 2009 poverty rate (12.5 percent) was not statistically different from the 2008 poverty rate.1
    • Between 2008 and 2009, the poverty rate increased for children under the age of 18 (from 19.0 percent to 20.7 percent) and people aged 18 to 64 (from 11.7 percent to 12.9 percent), but decreased for people aged 65 and older (from 9.7 percent to 8.9 percent).
    • Foreclosure affected nearly half a million more households in 2009 than in 2008, a 21 percent increase for 2.8 million foreclosed units in 2009. The number of foreclosed units more than doubled in Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
    • The nation’s homeless population increased by approximately 20,000 people from 2008 to 2009 (3 percent increase). There were also increased numbers of people experiencing homelessness in each of the subpopulations examined in this report: families, individuals, chronic, unsheltered.
    • A majority – 31 of 50 states and the District of Columbia – had increases in their homeless counts.


Prior to the U.S. recession, places like Long Island, N.Y. were deemed as being the “birthplace of the suburban American Dream. [Yet now] there are families falling from middle class to working poor and from the working poor into poverty…and are living in motels, [where] food pantries are emptying, and outreach agencies are running out of funds to help with a month’s rent or an overdue utility bill.”

Julia Cass, Children’s Defense Fund journalist


There are many organizations in our country fighting to help those stricken with poverty. Get involved and help save lives!

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