Expert Commentary

U.S. Census report: Income, poverty and health insurance

2011 report by the U.S. Census Bureau with data on health insurance coverage, income and poverty levels.


A clear and persistent legacy of the Great Recession is the country’s high national unemployment rate, which has hovered at 9 percent 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,” 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 percent from $50,599 to $49,445; real median household incomes have declined 6.4 percent 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 percent, from $31,240 to $28,322; that of disabled homeowners dropped 8.5 percent 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 percent decrease).
  • The number of African-American households in poverty rose to 27.4 percent, followed by Hispanic households (26.6 percent) Asian households (12.1 percent), and white households (9.9 percent).
  • 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 percent is lower than 1959’s rate of approximately 22 percent.
  • Some 16.3 percent, 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 percent, covering 170.8 million people, to 55.3 percent, covering 169.3 million people. (The U.S. population in 2010 was estimated to be 309 million.)

Tags: inequality, employment, Latino, African-American, poverty, race

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