Census: 1 in 7 Americans Live in Poverty
14.3% Poverty Rate Highest Since 1994; Ranks of Working Poor Reach Level Unseen since 1960s; Obama: "Our Work Just Beginning"
The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year, leaving one in seven Americans in poverty.
The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people, the Census Bureau said Thursday in its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. The report covers 2009, President Obama's first year in office.
The poverty rate climbed from 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million people, in 2008.
The share of Americans without health coverage rose from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent - or 50.7 million people - mostly because of the loss of employer-provided health insurance during the recession. Congress passed a health overhaul this year to address rising numbers of the uninsured, but the main provisions will not take effect until 2014.
Mr. Obama reacted to the report by saying that the new numbers are the result of the recession that began three years ago. He said that the stimulus package he signed into law last year and other government programs kept "millions of Americans" out of poverty.
"Even before the recession hit, middle class incomes had been stagnant and the number of people living in poverty in America was unacceptably high, and today's numbers make it clear that our work is just beginning," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "Our task now is to continue working together to improve our schools, build the skills of our workers, and invest in our nation's critical infrastructure."
The new figures come at a politically sensitive time, just weeks before the Nov. 2 congressional elections, when voters restive about high unemployment and the slow pace of economic improvement will decide whether to keep Democrats in power or turn to Republicans.
Dissatisfaction with Congress was evident in a new CBS News/New York Times poll, with 55 percent of Americans saying it was time to give someone else a chance to represent their interests in Washington, D.C. - a bad omen for Democrats who control both legislative houses.
Mr. Obama continued to struggle personally as well - with just 45 percent of Americans approving of his job as president, compared with 47 percent who disapprove. More than half - 51 percent - disapprove of his handling of the economy.