WASHINGTON - The early impact of the worst recession since the 1930s pushed median incomes down, forced almost 40 million more people into poverty and left more Americans without health care in 2008, according to new annual survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Poor people, working people, blacks, Hispanics and children bore a disproportionate share of the hardship. The new figures, however, likely understate the severity of the economic downturn because a large portion of nation's job losses and unemployment rate increases occurred after the census survey data was collected in March as part of the annual Current Population Survey.
The poor performances of key economic and social indicators come as little surprise, since the recession officially began in December 2007 and continued to create economic carnage for 18 months before appearing to bottom out over the summer.
The nation's real median income - the point at which half the nation earns less and half more - fell 3.6 percent from $52,163 in 2007 to $50,303 in 2008. That was the first such decline in three years and the worst in the first year of any recession since Census Bureau began collecting the data during World War II, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard University.
13.2 percent national poverty rate in 2008
12.5 percent national poverty rate in 2007
39.8 million people below the poverty line in 2008
37.3 million people below the poverty line in 2007
14.1 million - or 19 percent - children below the poverty line in 2008
35.3 percent nation's poor under age 18 in 2008
$50,303 nation's median income in 2008
$52,163 median income in 2007
1 percent decline in income of full-time working men, from $46,846 to $46,367
1.9 percent decline in income of full-time working women, $36,451 to $35,745
5.8 percent unemployment rate in 2008
4.6 percent unemployment rate 2007
9.7 percent national unemployment rate in August