The percentage of children without health insurance remained statistically unchanged in 2010 but only because the large number of those who lost private coverage was largely offset by the number picked up by Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor. More than 26 million children were on Medicaid’s rolls in 2010, a 1 percent jump from 2009.
Advocates for the poor said Medicaid’s growing role pointed to the need to keep the program out of reach of congressional budget-cutters. “More than ever people are depending on Medicaid as a lifeline,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an organization for health-care consumers.
The District, Maryland and Virginia all had higher rates of health coverage last year than the national average of 84 percent. In the District, 88 percent were covered; in Maryland, 87 percent; and in Virginia, 86 percent.
The inequality that has become a hallmark of the modern American economy has grown worse amid the economic upheaval of recent years. As of last year, median household income had declined by 7.1 percent since peaking in 1999, the Census Bureau reported, with those at the bottom feeling most of the pain. The income of the bottom 10 percent of earners had declined by 12.1 percent since 1999; the top 10 percent had experienced a decline of 1.5 percent.
The only group to have significant income gains is the richest 1 percent.
“Income down, poverty up, health insurance coverage down or flat,” said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The news on economic well-being in the U.S. is not good.”
The news was particularly bad for blacks, Hispanics and women. The poverty rate for Hispanics climbed to 26.6 percent last year, from 25.3 percent in 2009; for blacks, it increased to 27.4 percent, from 25.8 percent. For whites, the poverty rate was 9.9 percent, a half-percentage point increase. Meanwhile, 12.1 percent of Asian Americans were living below the poverty line in 2010, a rate statistically unchanged from 2009.
More than 17 million women lived in poverty in 2010, including more than 7.5 million in extreme poverty, with incomes of less than half the federal poverty line, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Many policy analysts said poverty rose despite a flurry of government efforts, including the 2009 federal stimulus bill, which economists say kept unemployment from going even higher while bolstering unemployment benefits and increasing aid to the poor.
“Without the infrastructure investments and various other provisions of the Recovery Act of 2009, unemployment would have been higher and incomes lower in 2010 than these figures show,” wrote Shawn Fremstad, director of the Inclusive and Sustainable Economy Initiative at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Staff writers Sylvia Carignan, Carol Morello and N.C. Aizenman and staff photographer Michael S. Williamson contributed to this report.