U.S. Census Report: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance
A clear and persistent legacy of the Great Recession is the country’s high national unemployment rate, which has hovered at 9% or greater since May 2009. It has been less clear, however, how the economic downturn has impacted the collective wealth of U.S. households.
A 2011 report published by the U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010” (PDF), collected data on health insurance coverage and personal income in 2010 as part of the agency’s 2011 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement survey. The results are contrasted against comparable 2009 data and, in some instances, contextualized longitudinally with data going back as far as 1959, the first year the survey was administered.
Key study findings include:
- Real median household income between 2009 and 2010 declined 2.3% from $50,599 to $49,445; real median household incomes have declined 6.4% since 2007.
- Losses are concentrated at the lower end of the spectrum: the median income of young people age 15 to 24, for instance, dropped 9.3%, from $31,240 to $28,322; that of disabled homeowners dropped 8.5% from $27,920 to $25,550. The groups with the smallest drops in income are couple households and naturalized citizens (each with a 0.4% decrease).
- The number of African-American households in poverty rose to 27.4%, followed by Hispanic households (26.6%) Asian households (12.1%), and white households (9.9%).
- 46.2 million U.S. residents had incomes at or below the poverty level in 2010, the largest number recorded since the survey began in 1959; however, 2010’s poverty rate of 15.1% is lower than 1959’s rate of approximately 22%.
- Some 16.3%, or 49.9 million Americans, were without health insurance in 2010, a nominal change from 2009′s figures. Employer-sponsored health coverage declined from 56.1%, covering 170.8 million people, to 55.3%, covering 169.3 million people. (The U.S. population is estimated at 312 million.)
Tags: inequality, employment, Latino, African-American, poverty, race
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the U.S. Census report “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010” (PDF).
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related Los Angeles Times article "U.S. poverty totals hit a 50-year high."
- If you were to revise the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make? Would you choose to highlight different facets of the report?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.