America's North Shore Journal

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Poverty in America – 2008 overview

The series on the 2009 report begins with Poverty in America 2009 – Overview
The series on the 2010 report begins with Poverty in America – the Quick Take.

The Census Bureau has released its report titled: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008. The release of the report was delayed by about a month by the administration.


  • The official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. This was the first statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004, when poverty increased to 12.7 percent from 12.5 percent in 2003.
  • In 2008, 39.8 million people were in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007 — the second consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.
  • In 2008, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (8.6 percent in 2008 — up from 8.2 percent in 2007), Asians (11.8 percent in 2008 — up from 10.2 percent in 2007) and Hispanics (23.2 percent in 2008 — up from 21.5 percent in 2007). Poverty rates in 2008 were statistically unchanged for Blacks (24.7 percent).
  • The poverty rate in 2008 (13.2 percent) was the highest poverty rate since 1997 but was 9.2 percentage points lower than in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available.
  • Since 1960, the number of people below poverty has not exceeded the 2008 figure of 39.8 million people.[1]
  • The poverty rate increased for children under 18 years old (19.0 percent in 2008 — up from 18.0 percent in 2007) and people 18 to 64 years old (11.7 percent in 2008 — up from 10.9 percent in 2007), while it remained statistically unchanged for people 65 years and over (9.7 percent).[2]

Some comparisons are called for since year over year numbers can be a bit misleading.

Here is a comparison of the poverty rates by term for recent Presidents.

Reagan I 14.7 13.3
Reagan II 13.5 12.0
Bush 41 13.8 12.4
Clinton I 14.3 12.8
Clinton II 12.3 10.7
Bush 43 I 12.3 10.5
Bush 43 II 12.7 10.9


Click on the graph for a larger image.

Graph of historical poverty rates in the United States through 2008 for entire population

Graph of historical poverty rates in the United States through 2008 for entire population

Graph of historical poverty rates for families in the United States through 2008

Graph of historical poverty rates for families in the United States through 2008

In 1981, 30% of Americans earned under $25,000 a year, and 41% earned over $50,000 per year. In 2008, 25% earned under $25,000 and 50% earned over $50,000 a year.

The remaining entries in the series will explore poverty in the elderly, the black and Hispanic community and the issue of wage parity between men and women.

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