poverty and income data

Today’s the day that the Census Bureau issued the annual report on poverty, income, and health insurance.  The year-over-year changes from 2006 to 2007 were pretty modest — a slight growth in median family income, no statistical change in the overall poverty rate.

But the big story is how little most people benefited from the economic growth of the Bush years — as my colleagues at EPI point out,  median income is still not back up to where it was in 2000.  And I don’t think there’s anyone who doubts that the income and poverty numbers are going to look significantly worse in 2008.

Moreover, as Cheryl at DemoMemo notes, the only reason that median family income rose from 2006 to 2007 is because of the increased income of household heads aged 55 or older.  And that’s because they were more likely to be working.  That’s a good thing if it’s because they’re in better health and able to keep working, not such a good thing if it’s because they can’t afford to retire.

It’s also worth noting that the only reason the number of uninsured fell is because of the increase in coverage under public programs — Medicaid, SCHIP, and Medicare.  And that’s in spite of the Bush Administration’s attempts to prevent states from expanding coverage.

3 Responses to “poverty and income data”

  1. jen Says:

    Elizabeth, do you know, are there any historical patterns related to this sort of split within a society? A pattern of increasing income inequality must have occurred before in a country with democratic elections. Last time this happened, what was the fallout? Can societies recover? Or, once the income inequality is in place, is the inertia too much to overcome?

  2. amy Says:

    Elizabeth, a side comment on SCHIP:
    My daughter is eligible under the income guidelines; currently she’s insured under my ex’s very expensive, but fabulous, policy. The same company — a BC/BS HMO — also provides SCHIP coverage in my county. Under Iowa’s rules, the private policy costs me enough that we can switch to SCHIP.
    I was interested enough that I called BC/BS to get a copy of the real SCHIP benefits certificate — not the coverage summary on the SCHIP website, but the whole comprehensive schmear about whether they cover airlifts and organs and blood and physical therapy equipment and all that stuff. Just to check. After all, if you have income property or retirement or college savings to protect, and I do, you don’t want to save a little each month by exposing yourself to hundreds of thousands in losses — it defeats the point of having insurance. An hour and a half later, I had no benefits certificate, and I’d given up on SCHIP. Here’s what happened:
    BC/BS told me they can’t talk to me about the program until I’m already on it. Fine. I call our county human-services agency, which happens to be a delightful and unusually well-funded place, and ask for the SCHIP outreach coordinator. (Iowa is currently run by Democrats, and my county is run by social workers. We have tasty social services.) I know she exists because at one point I served on the board that funds her job. But I’m told that no such person exists. I proceed to bounce around to no less than 5 county people, all of whom either deny her existence or confuse her with the non-Medicaid-poor-adults-insurance program lady.
    I give up and call the main Des Moines SCHIP office. They don’t have the benefits certificate for my county, but give me the name of the local SCHIP lady and her phone number, telling me she’s part-time. At this point something tumbles and I realize her job is to herd people into the program, not to know anything substantial about the program. Still, I call; not only has Des Moines got the name wrong, but the lady has quit and is working for the Visiting Nurses Association. A replacement will be in soon, but no one knows whether she’s been trained. The person sitting in her old office suggests I try the old SCHIP lady at VNA. She has absolutely no idea where any kind of benefits certificate might be, or what it might be.
    I give up again and call Wellmark back. After a protracted negotiation the girl on the other end goes away, talks to a supervisor, and comes back with the url for the benefits summary on the SCHIP website. She cannot tell me whether that’s really the whole benefits story for the program. At this point I’d be happy just to hear “If it’s not on the shelf we don’t have it.” I ask for her supervisor, who can’t help directly, but offers to arrange a three-way call among me, herself, and her SCHIP contact in Des Moines. I put it off because I had to go pick up my kid from school.
    Elizabeth, if this is what I go through just to fail to find out what’s covered under SCHIP, I don’t want to know what happens when there’s a claims dispute, or when my kid has a medical problem that the SCHIP program hasn’t dealt with yet. It looks to me like the best-case scenario for a problem under SCHIP is that I go through some sort of weeks-long gulag experience on the phone while trying to make a living and taking care of my kid — then the claim is paid satisfactorily, and satisfactory treatment coverage continues. Worst case, we have a strange or gray-area treatment, SCHIP people are so confused and have such poor communication that they don’t know whether or not we’re covered, and after eight months of treatment I get a letter from Des Moines saying “Final answer: Not covered.”
    Compare this with BC/BS’s private policy administration: If I want policy information, and it isn’t on the website, I call, and they send it. If there is a question about coverage (and we had many complex/gray questions involving my ex’s mental-healthcare costs), I call, ask the question, and get a call back promptly. Follow-up questions are also answered promptly.
    I’m not a rich lady; at 40 I don’t have anything like enough saved for retirement, and I’ll be lucky to cover my kid’s state-school tuition. But I’m not destitute or hand-to-mouth, either, and as far as I can make out, SCHIP is made for families so poor, with so much nothing, that poor administration and big policy holes don’t matter because they’re grateful for anything. I can’t afford a health insurance policy like that.
    If policymakers actually want people with incomes at the lower edge of middle class to use and support an expanded SCHIP, the policymakers are going to have to deal with the fact that people fall to a lowish income for many reasons. Illness, divorce, temporary unemployment, children, art. It doesn’t necessarily mean these people have nothing, or that they’ll stay at those income levels. But I don’t think social services are set up to deal with the idea that staying out of poverty is dependent on your ability to accumulate and retain property, and not so much on your ability to get a “good-paying” job this year. And if you want to accumulate and retain property, you can’t have insurance whose administration is confused, slipshod, understaffed, and part-time.
    It looks to me like US social welfare programs (outside Soc Sec and Medicare) have an unstable L5/4 joint where the underclass connects to the middle class. I doubt it’s fixable without changing the culture of social services from an alms-based “neediest” model to a European welfare-state model.
    Incidentally, there are other social welfare programs we won’t be participating in. Free school lunch, school breakfasts, etc. Why would I send my daughter off in the morning to eat Trix Yogurt and sugared-up rBGH/antibiotics milk when I can cook her some organic oatmeal with wild blueberries? Takes five minutes, costs a quarter. Similarly, for a kindergartener: 900 calories’ worth of free Grade-Z meat sloppy Joe, peach slices in syrup, chocolate milk, and corn-syrup cake, or 400 calories’ worth of stewed fruit & honey in yogurt, almonds, salad, juice & water, and cookie she helped bake?
    We’re not so poor a bad lunch looks good, in other words. Now, what concerns me about all this is that down the line I’m going to have to point to single-parent writer-income as a reason to bump my daughter up the waiting list for the after-schoolcare program (currently at 3 years). I’m stalling, because as soon as I do that, I’ll trip the “might be eligible for services and programs” wire, and then I’ll have well-meaning/naive/persistent social workers trying to add me to their numbers. In that world, turning down social services means you might not be looking after your kid, and — as a single mother whose ex does erratic custody litigation — that’s not something I really want in my permanent file.
    The take-home: Expanding social services up the income ladder while failing to account for class is not necessarily helping.

  3. Payday Loan Advocate Says:

    if we take a look by today poverty this must be the one to be solve that poverty is the main problem of the society in the country many of the young leaders they do not resolve this problem.
    Is the United States better now than in 1932? In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began his first term as president, and the U.S. was plummeting into a brutal recession. FDR’s “New Deal” economic policies reconfigured the way the U.S. economy operated; the government became more involved in the economy than it had ever been before. Roosevelt’s policies gave the American economy a much-needed boost, but some believe these policies caused irreparable, long-term damage to the economy. In this Wall Street Journal article, Paul Rubin suggests that while the current U.S. economy is not in the exact same state as in 1932, there are many similarities: the stock market is struggling, credit markets are locking down, and a popular Democratic presidential candidate – Barack Obama – is promoting increased government regulations into problem areas such as the economy. With Obama as president and the potential for a 60-seat, filibuster-proof democratic majority in the Senate, the U.S. will be as close to a pure liberalist agenda as it has ever been. Proponents of a “laissez-faire” economy are worried that Obama’s “hands-on” policies will deprive the American economy of the long-term direction it truly needs. Those who support the ideals of capitalism wouldn’t say that we’re better off today than in 1932. Instead, they’d probably tell you that America’s in for more of the same – a “New, New Deal.”
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