Thursday, September 15, 2011

U.S. Census Highlights Financial Toll Recession Has Claimed

Paul Waldie and Tavia Grant

The American dream has given way to a rude awakening. The financial crisis and recession have eroded the wealth and hopes of the U.S. middle class and swelled the ranks of the impoverished, leaving a legacy of declining income and high unemployment. Data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, the first to capture the post-recession year of 2010, show a middle class laid low by the slump. Median income, adjusted for inflation, fell last year to $49,445 (U.S.). That marks a drop of 2.3 per cent from 2009 and more than 7 per cent from the 1999 peak of $53,252. The report also showed one in six Americans living below the poverty line, or a record 46.2 million people, and a growing number of “doubled up” households, where those with the bleakest of outlooks have to band together to make ends meet.

More Canadians are also entering low-income status. Almost 3.2 million Canadians, or 9.6 per cent of the population, lived in low income, with the proportion increasing in both 2008 and 2009, according to Statistics Canada data released in June. Income and wealth distribution have a direct bearing on Canadians’ health, according to a paper released last year by York University health researchers, who found higher incidences of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and respiratory disease in low-income households. A separate Conference Board report published in July showed the richest segment of Canadians increased their share of total national income while poor and middle-income individuals have lost ground since 1993.

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