EPI News

The lost decade

Putting Working Families First

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
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The lost decade

Earlier this week, EPI analyzed Census Bureau data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage.  The data is another reminder of the Great Recession’s devastating effect on working Americans and their families.  The deterioration of the labor market caused incomes to drop, poverty to rise, and health insurance coverage to decline.  In a press conference call, two briefing papers, and subsequent analyses on EPI’s blog Working Economics, EPI’s experts explained what these numbers mean for American families.

In A lost decade: Income and poverty trends bleak for working families, EPI economists Dr. Heidi Shierholz and Dr. Elise Gould explained that from 2009 to 2010, the number of jobs fell by 658,000, the unemployment rate increased from 9.3 percent to 9.6 percent, and the share of unemployed workers who had been unemployed for more than six months climbed from 31.2 percent to 43.3 percent. The deterioration of the labor market also had a deleterious effect on household income.  “The typical working-age household brought in roughly $6,300 less in 2010 than it did in 2000,”said Shierholz.

Other statistics are equally troubling:

  1. The poverty rate increased from 14.3 percent in 2009 to 15.1 percent in 2010.  An additional 2.6 million people were living in poverty in 2010, and the total number of people in poverty in the United States was 46.2 million.
  2. The poverty rate for children was 22.0 percent in 2010, representing 16.4 million children. In 2010, more than one-third of all people living in poverty were children.
  3. Between 2000 and 2010, median income for working-age households fell from $61,574 to $55,276, a decline of roughly $6,300—which is more than 10 percent.

In  Another year of decline for employer-sponsored health insurance Gould discussed the rising number of uninsured Americans under 65 and explained the compounding effects the Great Recession and jobs crisis had on the decline of insured Americans.  Some of the report’s findings:

  1. In 2010, 49.1 million people under 65 were uninsured, up about three-quarters of a million people since 2009. The number of uninsured non-elderly Americans is 12.9 million higher than it was in 2000.
  2. The share of non-elderly Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance declined for nearly 10 years in a row, down from 59.4 percent in 2009 to 58.6 percent in 2010, a total decline of 10.5 percentage points since 2000.
  3. Critical provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as health reform) and the Recovery Act of 2009 helped offset the declines by enabling young adults to be insured on their parents’ health insurance policies and by helping to shore up Medicaid funding.

Though truly heartbreaking, perhaps the latest Census data will further incite policymakers to fight to improve the condition and daily lives of American workers and their families.

Multiple major media outlets and reporters cited EPI’s analysis of the Census Bureau data release.

The Washington Post’s Michael Fletcher quoted Shierholz in the front page story “Nearly one in six in poverty in the U.S.; children hit hard, Census says.” Shierholz told Fletcher that “not only have we experienced severe deterioration in recent years, but knowing how weak the outlook is makes this report even more ugly.”

EPI Director of Health Policy Research Elise Gould discussed the rising number of uninsured Americans under age 65, from 48.3 million in 2009 to 49.1 million in 2010, with CNN Money and Reuters.

From CNN Money: ‘ “As the job market remains weak, Americans can no longer depend on their workplace for consistent affordable coverage,” said Elise Gould.’

Who got the wealth?

This week’s Economic Snapshot illustrates the disturbing fact that the richest 5 percent of households obtained roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009.

The bottom 60 percent of households had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983, meaning they did not participate at all in the growth of wealth over this period.

EPI visualizes state employment data

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly states employment report.  Please visit the EPI homepage to see an interactive, color-coded breakdown of the report and to learn how your state is affected.

Working Economics:
This Week’s Recap

Are you reading EPI’s new blog? Launched last week, Working Economics helps EPI analyze and respond to economic news quicker than ever before. Here are some of this week’s highlights: