Are You Worse Off Than You Were 10 Years Ago?

A blog about business, finance, and economics.
Sept. 16 2010 4:42 PM

Are You Worse Off Than You Were 10 Years Ago?

The release this morning of income and poverty data from the Census Bureau was not pretty: "There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008—the third consecutive annual increase." The poverty rate itself in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. I recognize that this provides zero comfort to actual poor people, but many folks who watch these things closely had expected the rate to go higher. These two economists , for example, had expected a rise of between 1.5 and 3 percentage points. Of course, the chances are good that poverty will rise again in 2010, so they'll get another shot at this grisly guessing game.

There's all sorts of criticisms of the poverty rate, mostly about the things it doesn't measure (plus this oddity : "It accounts for family size in an odd way, so that, for example, the second child in a two parent family raises the thresholds much more than either the first child or the third."). Starting next year, the government is going to begin issuing a "supplemental" measure that's supposed to provide a fuller picture of how poverty really affects people. (Some details are in this PDF .) The number that stuck out for me, though, was a much less-contested figure, median household income; at $49,777, it's down slightly from 2008, which itself was down from 2007. The New York Times got the money quote from Harvard's Lawrence Katz :

Advertisement

"The decline in incomes in 2008 had been greater than expected and when the two recession years are considered together, the fall since 2007 is 4.2 percent, said Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard University . Gains achieved earlier in the decade were wiped out, and median family incomes in 2009 were 5 percent lower than in 1999.

'This is the first time in memory that an entire decade has produced essentially no economic growth for the typical American household,' Mr. Katz said."

 

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 16 2014 11:56 AM Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 16 2014 10:17 AM How Jack Ma Founded Alibaba
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 16 2014 8:00 AM The Wall Street Bombing: Low-Tech Terrorism in Prohibition-era New York
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 11:40 AM How to Put Things in Your Fridge
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 7:36 AM The Inspiration Drought Why our science fiction needs new dreams.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.