One In Three Americans Lived In Poverty For At Least Two Months In Recent Years

Tyler Durden's picture

Yesterday's chart of the day was the stunning prevalence of poverty in Greece, which soaring to 44%, up from 14% a year ago, was too mindboggling to even comment on.

Today, courtesy of the Census Bureau, we get a glance at a just as disturbing aspect of poverty not in some country in depressed Europe, but in the US itself. The bad news: in the period from 2009 to 2011, 31.6% of Americans were in poverty for at least two months, "a 4.5 percentage point increase over the prerecession period of 2005 to 2007. What one assumes is the good news, is that poverty was a temporary state for most people. Still 3.5% of Americans were in poverty for the entire three-year period."

It is not exactly clear how that small number foots with the nearly 50 million Americans on foodstamps (whose benefits were just cut by a substantial percentage).

Then again, one needs to read further in the report to realize that even the good news is not all that good: "poverty was a persistent condition for many; among the 37.6 million people who were poor at the start of the period — January and February 2009 — 26.4 percent remained poor throughout the next 34 months." And once again there are good and bad news:

The many people escaped poverty: 12.6 million, or 35.4 percent, who were poor in 2009 were not in poverty in 2011.  That's the good.

As some moved out of poverty, others moved into it. About 13.5 million people, or 5.4 percent, who were not in poverty in 2009 slipped into poverty by 2011.  That's the bad.

Netting the "churn", nearly 1 million Americans dipped into poverty more than they dipped out of it. Along the lines of what one would expect in a New Normal "recovery."

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The percent of individuals experiencing a poverty spell lasting at least two months increased from 27.1 percent over the period of 2005 to 2007 to 31.6 percent from 2009 to 2011. Chronic poverty rates (poor all 36 months) also increased, from 3.0 percent over the prerecession period to 3.5 percent from 2009 to 2011.
  • For those who were in poverty for two or more consecutive months from 2009 to 2011, the median length of a poverty spell was 6.6 months, up from 5.7 months over the period from 2005 to 2007.
  • Approximately 44.0 percent of poverty spells occurring from 2009 to 2011 ended within four months, while 15.2 percent lasted more than 24 months.
  • While 35.4 percent of individuals who were in poverty in 2009 managed to escape poverty in 2011, approximately half (49.5 percent) continued to have income below 150 percent of their poverty threshold.
  • People 65 and older had lower annual poverty rates than children or working-age adults, but once the elderly entered poverty their median spell durations of 8.3 months were longer than both children and working-age adults.
  • People in families with a female head of household had longer median poverty spell lengths than those in married-couple families (8.4 and 5.6 months, respectively).
  • Hispanics were more likely than blacks to enter poverty over the course of 2009 to 2011, but also more likely than blacks to exit poverty. Hispanics also had shorter median spell durations, 6.5 months, while the median duration for blacks was 8.5 months.

The findings visually:

Monthly poverty rates, like episodic poverty rates, are higher than annual poverty rates because people are more likely to experience short-term income shortfalls than longer-term deficits. A family could be in poverty for a few months (based on monthly poverty thresholds and monthly family income) but have an annual income higher than their corresponding annual poverty threshold. Regardless of the definition, the upward trend is worrying- the monthly poverty rate increased by 3.5 percentage points, from 13.2 percent in December 2007 to 16.7 percent in May 2008.

At the broader population level,  over the 36 months from 2009 to 2011, 31.6 percent of individuals experienced a poverty spell lasting 2 or more months, an increase of 4.5 percentage points over the episodic poverty rate of 27.1 percent from 2005 to 2007. Broken down by ethnicity, Non-Hispanic Whites had a lower episodic poverty rate (25.4 percent) than Blacks and Hispanics, while Blacks had a lower episodic poverty rate (45.3 percent) than Hispanics (49.6 percent).

The chart below compares the population experiencing either chronic or episodic poverty over the 2009 to 2011 period to the total population. While children made up 25.2 percent of the total population, they represented 32.4 percent of those who were poor for at least 2 months, and 42.4 percent of those who were poor for the entire 36-month period from 2009 to 2011. Similarly, Blacks were 12.6 percent of the entire population, 18.1 percent of the population poor at least 2 months, and 31.0 percent of the chronically poor. People in female-householder families composed 14.9 percent of the population, 25.0 percent of those with at least 2 months in poverty, and 42.8 percent of the chronically poor. People in married-couple families made up 64.0 percent of the total population, 47.8 percent of the population with at least 2 months in poverty, and 25.7 percent of the chronically poor.

Finally, the chart below shows the distribution of poverty spell lengths for the total population over the course of 2009 to 2011. The distribution of spell lengths indicates that most individuals experience relatively short spells of poverty. Over the period from 2009 to 2011, approximately 44.0 percent of poverty spells lasted between 2 and 4 months, 18.7 percent of spells lasted between 5 and 8 months, and 9.4 percent of spells lasted between 9 and 12 months. Cumulatively, 72.1 percent of all spells lasted 1 year or less, while 15.2 percent of all poverty spells continued for more than 2 years. Of course, if one is in poverty, rises above it for a month, then goes back in, we fail to see how even the most naive optimistcs can call the optimistic, but then again some still consider this a "recovery."

The full Census Bureau report can be found here.

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Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Maybe this is pleasant learning experience for AmeriKan citizenry to feel what 2 in 3 world citizenry is experience EVERY DAY of EVERY YEAR...? Like Model Quality Thai "girl" in side bar ad?

jomama's picture

what's it gonna take, bitchez?

Yenbot's picture

One accident. You get mugged, fall down some stairs. If you're unlucky enough to survive, SURPRISE! You're a moron for life.

Blues Traveler's picture

oblunder own masterpiece, ACA as created the part time economy.  It is a frkn travesty for working people and micro credit communities.  Black youth unemployment is over 30+ and the immigration bill will further hammer this devasted demogtraphic. Niether party gives a shit about this polling group so they are in real danger of being completely squeezed out of the job market.  Yet, they still support this -fuckism- regime.  How oblunder maintains their support should be a harvard case study.

Mercury's picture

Now just add entitlements and directions to the polling booth.

Mission accomplished.

Pre-benefit "poverty" isn't a bug, it's a feature.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

<-- America is stable Republic

<-- AmeriKa is imploding democratic crap shoot

Citxmech's picture

I'd vote for #2 except for the "democratic" part. . . 

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

<-- AmeriKa is pretend democracy and rule of law but is tyrannical bureaucracy with idiot crack snort figure head run by bankster class for expansion of personal fortune through war and manipulation with million of stupid citizenry that is believe former and oblivious to latter because dumb down system of indoctrination and electronic gadget distraction.

There, Boris is fix!

Cugel's picture

More democracy won't fix this

shepherd's picture

Has America ever been different?

Mercury's picture

Yes, once upon a time poor Americans didn't have cars, electric everything and the caloric intake a of a Roman emperor.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Once upon a time, Amerikan is also not to worry about deep probe spy activity of government.

Hedgetard55's picture

"Poverty" in America means a 50 inch HDTV, Obamaphone, food stamps, rent stipend, free health care...

Hippocratic Oaf's picture

I think hedge got downvoted because it should have been a 70" TV,50" is so 2012.

RKDS's picture

Talk about being out-of-touch.  When I worked for the state, I was so "rich" that I watched VHS/DVD on a 25" CRT because I couldn't afford cable or satellite, let alone a flat screen of any sort.  But I am thankful to have not actually been rich, because to be rich in modern America is to be utter consumed with envy of the poor and throw endless tantrums over imagined victimization at their hands.

SmackDaddy's picture

When poor people arent fat anymore and gunshot wounds are a leading cause of death, I'll start to worry.

q99x2's picture

I haven't met anyone that would admit to having money while applying for Gov support.

JustObserving's picture
One In Three Americans Lived In Poverty 

We can't have that.  How can the NSA spy on them if they do not have internet or cell phones?

After all, NSA spying costs about $1000 a year for every family of four in the USA.

Ness.'s picture

Who said those in poverty don't have internet or cell phones?  This is Amurika - get with it man.

debtor of last resort's picture

Poverty is getting drowned in a mass marketing blitz krieg by utopia cronies.

sangell's picture

I take the opposite approach. Instead of living a middle class lifestyle for 365 days a year. I live a lower class lifestyle for 350 days and splurge and live a 1% lifestyle for two weeks.

Ness.'s picture

In the Chi we call that being nigger rich.  That was racist.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

One time, in China, Boris is have "Big Mac" in fancy Western Style restaurant. Not so big, not so great. Maybe lifestyle of rich Amerika citizenry is not so very great.

yogibear's picture

Wait until the Fed and IMF announce the US dollar devaluation soon.


Boris Alatovkrap's picture

You are wait for announcement? Open you eyes, man!

NoWayJose's picture

All you have to do is slide the 'poverty' level up or down to get to the percentages you want.  Poverty in Greece is making less than 500 Euros per month -  whereas in the US the poverty level is $11,490 (per DHHS).  On top of that, the IRS will PAY you a refund of taxes that you don't have to pay, and many other social networks kick in to provide food, cell phones, etc.  If you are at the poverty level in Greece, then you are truly hungry.  In the US, you get enough other freebies piled on that you are better off living in poverty than you are taking a $26,000 a year job and paying taxes, paying for transportation, and no longer qualifying for any of the 'poverty bennies'.

So what you really are comparing here is an American income of $26,000 versus a Greek income of 5oo Euros per month.  Which one is really living in 'poverty'?

verbot's picture

Verbot.exe...ldmem..ldsarc..loadwit..module missing press any key to continue.

Wow..good article.. tyler (s) not running a bitcoin showroom after all.. (sorry just a small poke at content that gets a rise out of posters...youknow who you

"Wealth"is a personal decision about your own personal conditions.

I must be a good bot as I was just wondering how to start certain convos on this site and here tyler the supreme arbiter came to my aid..Authority will allow us all the largess of our sometimes "spicy" opinions but go build any form of community and see how fast you disappear.. see..waco, tupac, for starters only common thread

was they all were involved in homebrew solutions.. waco was about getting in that compound and tupac was about black unity based on a new community model...imho..

Which brings me to my point.. why feel the little man is a dangerous layabout social "issue" all the free shit army stuff... when "money" is agreed by all to be unlimited and free. Go out and make an army of minions as an investment. .whats it worth to have dedicated folks who you care for that do all the stuff you want done as if they thought of it themselves.. (everyone knows a great minion never kniws they are one..)

Use this free monies and all your smarts to make enclaves of folks learning hiw not to be ooor anymore by folks who want to livein a better world....imho..I

SmackDaddy's picture

u wrong about Pac.  man ive sat with these motherfuckers in cells.  it's so pathetic to watch the older negros pass off their bullshit 'wisdom' to the younger ones.  he heard a little of that and then started rappin about illuminati and shit....  i'll give black people one thing- they understand the problem (even if they cant really articulate/define it).  just too fucking dumb and dependent to do anything about it.    

Pac was a pretend gangster who got smoked by a real one.  plus the motherfucker was gay as shit.  them little bandanas he tied like bows on his head and that fucking nose ring.... smh

verbot's picture

And fix the odd issue in the text box? ?? Using android phone to post and it does some crazy ass stuff at times... oh and it was a great book and the magic motor pre-dated the dyson by years..

EastCoast90's picture

Poverty Kentucky?

savedbyfreethought's picture

All this talk about poverty as a measure based on level of income ignores the real issues behind. Two ideas: slavery and prostitution.

A slave is a person who can survive only if he serves his master. A prostitute is a person whose livelihood depends on providing a service that is not necessarily needed by the potential consumers.

In this post-industralised economy almost everything that one needs in order to survive can only be purchased from a small group of monopolies: How many people can provide food for himself through farming and hunting ? How many people can provide accomodation for himself by claiming a piece of land and live on it rent free ? The legislators have pretty much made it illegal for anyone to sustain himself independently, just think of all the land law, environmental law etc... if you want to survive, you can only do so through serving the supermarkets, the property developers, the power companies ... You are a slave without a master because you are owned  by a class of masters collectively.

Money has to be drawn from one's livelihood to pay the masters and most peoples' livelihood belong to the class of prostitute. Very few peoples' livelihood can continue to exist if people stop consuming, that's why it's called a consumer economy. There are only a handful of this kind of "perpetually essential" jobs: farmers, doctors, policemen, oil workers ... On the other hand the insurance company workers, the lawyers, the graphics designers, the retailers ... bascially the vast majority of the population are essentially prostitutes, their livelihood can not guarantee to generate income from their labour, it may do so only if someone happens to be in the mood of buying and the buyers are by no means to compelled to purchase something non-essential.

So there you have it, a society where an overwhelming percentage of the population are prostitutes in slavery dictates poor economic well-being. The loss of economic independence and certainty is the real poverty. Just saying.

GreatUncle's picture

"and the buyers are by no means to compelled to purchase something". Unless you legislate for it to be a need like Obamacare does and a guaranteed income for those who would benefit from all this.

On the loss of economic independence, just a matter of time. Once you are over populated enough this will be addressed by the haves fighting the have nots until there is enough to go round once more. You might want to put central bankers on trial in ther future for crimes against humanity and intentionally creating this scenario.

notquantumdum's picture

Anyone who is even remotely surprised by the contents of this article should just consider the answers to two questions:  what is just one policy change which the US government has made since early 2007 [out of the, presumably, thousands of changes made] which did NOT make it more expensive to have an employee in the US [excluding the payroll tax holiday which has already been repealed]; and what happens to US employment when it becomes more expensive to have an employee in the US [regardless of the reasons why]?

('Not to even mention any harmful effects which are due to the monetary policies of the Fed, if not also fiscal policies.)

It's fairly obvious what has happened if one can only think (critically) beyond their media and academic indoctrinations.

I found this op-ed to be interesting, also:

ZH11's picture

If human vices such as greed and envy are systematically cultivated, the inevitable result is nothing less than a collapse of intelligence. A man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, of seeing things in their roundness and wholeness, and his very successes become failures. If societies become infected by these vices, they may indeed achieve astonishing things but they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence. Thr Gross National Product may rise rapidly: as measrured by statisticians but not as experienced by actual people, who find themselves oppressed by a increasing frustration, alienation, insecurity, and so forth. After a while, even Gross National Product refuses to rise any further, not because of scientific or technological failure, but because of a creeping paralysis of non-co-ooperation, as expressed in various types of escapism on the part, not only of the oppressed and exploited, but even highly privileged groups."

E.F.Schumacher - 1974