Last Friday we talked about news coverage on housing problems and poverty including shocking data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and the even more alarming lack of response from Washington.

Today, we want to take a closer look at the U.S. Census Bureau report on 2010 poverty levels that was released last week. We highlighted the report’s findings in this week’s Memo to Members; here are some of the most startling figures:

  • 46.2 million people lived in poverty in the United States in 2010, marking the fourth consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate and the largest poverty estimate since the Census began to measure this variable over fifty years ago.
  • The national poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010. The share of Americans living in poverty reached the highest level since 1993.
  • Real median household income fell to $49,445 in 2010, providing further indication of financial stress across households. Median household income declined 7.1% from peak income levels recorded in 1999.

The report also reveals how these falling income levels have not affected all Americans equally. The poverty rate for female-lead households and among children both rose almost 2%. Children continue to account for a disproportionately higher percentage of the population in poverty (35.5%) even though they compose only a quarter of the total population.

Also raising concern on the lack of conversation by Washington was Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of “Jimmy Carter” (Times Books), in a CNN commentary this morning.

“Despite the enormity of this social problem, American politicians in either party rarely discuss the subject. Since the poor don’t tend to vote in high rates or contribute much in campaign funds, they don’t get a place at the table in Washington, D.C. Yet with the U.S. poverty rate being the highest in the developed world according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, this statistic marks a terrible failure for the nation as a whole.”

Washington may not be talking about it but we want to. What do you find most concerning from these new findings on poverty rates? Do you agree with Zelizer’s commentary? What do you think the repercussions of these high poverty rates among children could be if they continue to go largely unresolved?