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Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008

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Report Number P60-236(RV)


This report presents data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States based on information collected in the 2009 and earlier Annual Social and Economic Supplements (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Data presented in this report indicate the following:

  • Real median household income fell between 2007 and 2008, and the decline was widespread. Median income fell for family and nonfamily households, native- and foreign-born households, households in 3 of the 4 regions, and households of each race category and those of Hispanic origin.1 These declines in income coincide with the recession that started in December 2007.2
  • The poverty rate increased between 2007 and 2008.
  • The percentage of uninsured in 2008 was not statistically different from 2007, while the number of uninsured increased between 2007 and 2008.

These results, though widespread, were not uniform across groups. For example, between 2007 and 2008, real median income was statistically unchanged for households maintained by a person 65 years old and over but declined for households maintained by people of all other age group categories. Additionally, the poverty rate increased for children under 18 and for people 18 to 64 but remained statistically unchanged for people 65 and over; and the percentage of uninsured for non-Hispanic Whites, Asians, and Hispanics increased, while the percentage of uninsured for Blacks was not statistically different.3

These results are discussed in more detail in the three main sections of this report—income, poverty, and health insurance coverage. Each section presents estimates by characteristics such as race, Hispanic origin, nativity, and region. Other topics include earnings of full-time, year-round workers; families in poverty; and health insurance coverage of children. State health insurance coverage data can be found on the Internet at <www.census.gov/hhes/www/hlthins/hlthin08.html>.

1 All income values are adjusted to reflect 2008 dollars. “Real” refers to income after adjusting for inflation. The adjustment is based on percentage changes in prices between earlier years and 2008 and is computed by dividing the annual average Consumer Price Index Research Series (CPI-U-RS) for 2008 by the annual average for earlier years. The CPI-U-RS values for 1947 to 2008 are available in Appendix A and on the Internet at <www.census.gov/hhes/www /income/income08/AA-CPI-U-RS.pdf>. Inflation between 2007 and 2008 was 3.8 percent.

2 Recessions are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private research organization. See Appendix A for a list of peak and trough months.

3 Federal surveys now give respondents the option of reporting more than one race. Therefore, two basic ways of defining a race group are possible. A group such as Asian may be defined as those who reported Asian and no other race (the race-alone or single-race concept) or as those who reported Asian regardless of whether they also reported another race (the race-alone-or-in-combination concept). The body of this report (text, figures, and tables) shows data using the first approach (race alone). The appendix tables show data using both approaches. Use of the single-race population does not imply that it is the preferred method of presenting or analyzing data. The Census Bureau uses a variety of approaches.

In this report, the term “non-Hispanic White” refers to people who are not Hispanic and who reported White and no other race. The Census Bureau uses non-Hispanic Whites as the comparison group for other race groups and Hispanics.

Because Hispanics may be any race, data in this report for Hispanics overlap with data for racial groups. Being Hispanic was reported by 13.0 percent of White householders who reported only one race, 2.9 percent of Black householders who reported only one race, and 2.0 percent of Asian householders who reported only one race.

The householder is the person (or one of the people) in whose name the home is owned or rented and the person to whom the relationship of other household members is recorded. If a married couple owns the home jointly, either the husband or the wife may be listed as the householder. Since only one person in each household is designated as the householder, the number of householders is equal to the number of households. This report uses the characteristics of the householder to describe the household.

Data users should exercise caution when interpreting aggregate results for the Hispanic population or for race groups because these populations consist of many distinct groups that differ in socioeconomic characteristics, culture, and recency of immigration. In addition, the CPS does not use separate population controls for weighting the Asian sample to national totals. Data were first collected for Hispanics in 1972 and for Asians and Pacific Islanders in 1987. For further information, see <www.bls.census.gov/cps/ads/adsmain.htm>.


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