News / USA

Study: One in Seven Americans Lives in Poverty

New parents Garrett Goudeseune, 25, Laura Fritz, 27, left, with their daughter Adalade Goudeseune, are at the Jefferson Action Center, an assistance center in the Denver. The couple has struggled to find work, now relying on government assistance to cover food and $650 rent for their family, July 16, 2012.
New parents Garrett Goudeseune, 25, Laura Fritz, 27, left, with their daughter Adalade Goudeseune, are at the Jefferson Action Center, an assistance center in the Denver. The couple has struggled to find work, now relying on government assistance to cover food and $650 rent for their family, July 16, 2012.
More than 46 million people were living in poverty in the United States last year as the lingering effects of the financial crisis boosted unemployment. Government experts say family incomes fell, but more people were covered by health insurance.  

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Wednesday, about about 15 percent of people in the United States were living in poverty in 2011. The Census Bureau defines "poverty" as having an income below $23,021 a year for a family of four. Median U.S. incomes declined 1.5 percent last year to $50,054.

Washington-based Brookings Institution scholar Ron Haskins blames persistent poverty on unemployment that rose during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, and remains stubbornly high.  

"It sure is taking a long time for the jobs to come back," said Haskins.
Even people like Kate, who has a job, but did not want her last name used, face difficult financial problems.  

"I don't know what we are going to do in the future. I don't know, we live, you know, it's a day-by-day situation," she said.

Kate, her husband and three children live near Washington, D.C. She is a waitress. Her husband was a restaurant manager until an injury left him with broken bones and a concussion. Kate said he will be out of work for perhaps a year and workers compensation - a kind of insurance that helps people injured on the job - pays only 60 percent of what he made at work.

"When he got injured, we started struggling and struggling," she said.
Kate gets health insurance through her employer, but has to pay for it. Tens of millions of Americans receive health insurance through their work. The share of the cost paid by employers varies widely.   

Wednesday's report shows that the number of people not covered by any kind of health insurance declined slightly last year to 49 million.  Government-run plans covered more people, and a new law allows families to use a parent's health insurance to cover children until they are 26 years old.   

Rising health care costs in recent years have made health insurance a major issue when workers negotiate compensation with companies.  

Kate says her situation would go from difficult to desperate without health insurance. She also hopes her husband can quickly regain his health and bring home a paycheck.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs