US Poverty Figures to Reach Highest Levels Since 1960s with Record Gains in 2009

Census figures for 2009 are to be released in the coming week, and demographers expect grim findings in terms of the number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty. Under President Barack Obama's watch, it is expected that the number of working-age poor has approached 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty.

The timing of the release of the information couldn't come at a worse time for the Democratic party, with just seven weeks left until important elections with the control of Congress at stake.

It is anticipated that the poverty rate will rise from 13.2 percent to 15 percent. Should these figures hold true, that would mean about 45 million people in the United States, or 1 in 7, were poor last year. It would also be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The last previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped to 13 percent, up 1.3 percent, during the energy crisis.

In the 18064 working-age population, demographers are expecting a rise above 12.4 percent, up from 11.7 percent. That would be the highest since 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the war on poverty which expanded the federal government's role in social welfare programs.

Demographers also anticipate that the report will show:

  • Child poverty increased from 19 percent to more than 20 percent.
  • Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately hit, based on their higher rates of unemployment.
  • Metropolitan areas that posted the largest gains in poverty included Modesto, Calif.; Detroit; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.; Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Not everyone thinks, however, that poverty will have much of an impact on elections in November.

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