Expert Commentary

Assessing the impact of the Great Recession on income and poverty across states

2011 fact sheet published by Congress’s Joint Economic Committee on the recession's impact at the state level.


In September 2011 the Census Bureau issued a report on household income, health insurance coverage and poverty levels in the United States. It showed the extent to which the Great Recession, despite having officially ended in 2009, continued to adversely impact Americans’ standards of living.

A 2011 fact sheet published by Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, “Assessing the Impact of the Great Recession on Income and Poverty Across States,” examines information on household employment, income and poverty levels by state and by region. Data for this supplemental analysis was based on responses from more than 2 million 2010 American Community Surveys administered across the United States and Puerto Rico.

Key study findings include:

  • The states with the highest percentage increases in median income from 2007 to 2010 were the District of Columbia (a 6.2% increase, from $57,347 to $60,903) and North Dakota (a 5.8% increase, from $46,000 to $48,670). The states with the highest percentage decreases in median income in the same period were Nevada (a 11.9% decrease, from $57,889 to $51,001) and Florida (a 11.7% decrease, from $50,293 to $44,409).
  • The median national income in 2010 decreased 6.2%, from $53,353 to $50,046; the state with the highest median income in 2010 was Maryland ($68,854), while Mississippi was the lowest ($36,851).
  • The South — defined as Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia — has a combined poverty rate of 16.9%, meaning that roughly 1 out of every 6 residents lives in poverty.
  • From 2007 to 2010, the number of residents living at or below the poverty line increased by 3.3 million in the South, 2.4 million in the West, 2.4 million in the Midwest and 912,000 in the Northeast. Poverty rates rose from 2007 to 2010 in all but four states: Alaska, Louisiana, Montana and North Dakota.
  • The percentage of children living at or below the poverty line increased in 42 states and the District of Columbia; the District recorded the largest percentage gain of children in poverty (7.7%) and had the highest percentage of children living at or below the poverty line (30.4%.) The District was also one of two places where household incomes rose from 2007 to 2010 (6.2%).
  • The percentage of residents 65 years and older living in poverty increased in two states, but declined in 21 states despite overall increases in poverty rates. “Social Security benefits kept 13.8 million Americans 65 years and older out of poverty in 2010.”

The report concludes, “[This] assessment gives a stark reminder of the need for continued government support to help American households regain their economic footing.”

Tags: economy, poverty, inequality, financial crisis, Social Security, aging

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