More bad economic figures: median household income down, poverty up

The effects of the economic crisis are reflected in two key updated figures just released by the US Census Bureau:

Data released by the Census Bureau today showed the proportion of people living in poverty climbed to 15.1 percent last year from 14.3 percent in 2009, and median household income declined 2.3 percent. The number of Americans living in poverty was the highest in the 52 years since the Census Bureau began gathering that statistic. Those figures may have worsened in recent months as the economy weakened…

The ranks of people in poverty increased to 46.2 million from 43.6 million. The last time the poverty rate reached 15.1 percent was in 1993. It climbed to 15.2 percent in 1983. Median household income in 2010 was $49,445, down from $50,599 the year before…

The income figures declined even as the U.S. economy expanded 3 percent in 2010. Growth has slowed this year to an annual rate of less than 1 percent, raising concern that the financial struggles of families will continue to worsen and hamper the recovery…

It was the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate, a trend that won’t reverse itself without “concerted action” on the part of policy makers, said Melissa Boteach, who leads a campaign to reduce poverty at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based research group with ties to the Obama administration.

I would love to hear politicians talk about this ahead of the 2012 elections and to do so in ways that go beyond typical “political speak.” Talking about taxes and jobs might make some sense: they have an effect on incomes and poverty rates and every politicians loves to promise more jobs. However, there are other factors involved as well and talking about taxes and jobs means that the conversation never really turns to these indicators but only stays on “safe” ground.

UPDATE 9/13/11 3:20 PM: Here is some more data on the topic, including time-series charts that give some perspective on poverty rates and median incomes by race.

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