1 in 7 Americans living in poverty in ‘new, unhappy world’

The Census Bureau released some grim statistics about poverty today, revealing that one out of every seven Americans is “living in poverty” in the United States.

In 2009, the poverty rate climbed for the third year running, shooting to 14.3% from 13.2% in 2008. Asian people were the only race as whole who did not see increases in poverty rates- all other races and ethnic groups experienced a higher level of financial duress. There were also increases in the number of Americans who lack health insurance, for the first time since the government began collecting those statistics in 1987.

Douglas Besharov, a University of Maryland public policy professor, said that due to high levels of unemployment in the US, “it’s the government safety net that’s keeping people above the poverty line.” Vickie Koth, the director of an outreach program in Loudoun County, Virginia, said that the profile of those in need has changed drastically in recent times:

“We have definitely seen many more individuals who are very well-educated, with high degrees, where it’s the first time to ever be in a situation to ever have to ask for help for food or shelter… We’re full all the time and we turn people away every day, and that’s always been true. But the types of people that call have changed,” Koth said. “Time after time I’ve heard individuals say, ‘I’ve given to shelters, I’ve volunteered at food pantries. I’ve never thought I’d be here myself.’ “

[Washington Post, Image]