Experts Foresee Disturbing Trend out of Recent Census Data

Brookings Institution

With yesterday's release of the Census Bureau's report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for Americans in 2008, most economists and analysts agree that while the numbers are bad, next year's numbers will be worse and that trend could continue for a number of years.

That was the conclusion reached by a panel of experts brought together by the Brookings Institution yesterday on Capitol Hill. Senior fellows from Brookings, along with members of academia, government, and other non-profits, broke down the most recent Census numbers and told of the severe impact on families these figures represent. With poverty at a 12-year high and middle-income Americans losing purchasing power and insurance coverage at astounding rates, most members of the panel argued for increased attention to the adequacy of society's safety net, including action on health care reform.

The decline of large swaths of the American public into poverty will continue for a number of years because unemployment, a lead indicator of financial health, is a lagging statistic, and these most recent numbers only cover the beginning of what is now quite a serious recession. With expectations of high unemployment continuing into next year, it could be another five years before these figures start to turn around. Research groups such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) have released similar findings and prognostications based on the new Census data.

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