Census poverty report: In tough times Americans ‘double up’


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On Tuesday morning, the Census Bureau released a slew of disturbing information about the financial reality many Americans face.

The worst of it has been widely reported: From 2009 to 2010 poverty was up, median household income was down, and the number of people living without health insurance grew from 49 million to 49.9 million.


Grim stuff.

One thing we found interesting is the growing number of people living in what are called ‘doubled-up households.’ In the report, these are defined as households that include at least one ‘additional’ person who is 18 or older, not enrolled in school, not the house owner and not the spouse or partner of the house owner.

Interactive map: People living in poverty, by state
Here are the stats on doubled-up households, culled directly from the news release:

In the spring of 2007, before the recession, doubled-up households totaled 19.7 million. By the spring of 2011, the number had increased by 2 million to 21.8 million. As a percentage of all households, such doubled-up arrangements rose from 17% to 18.3%.

In the spring of 2011, 5.9 million young adults ages 25 to 34 (14.2% ) resided in their parents’ household, compared with 4.7 million (11.8 %) before the recession.

It is difficult to precisely assess the impact of doubling up on overall poverty rates. Young adults ages 25 to 34 and living with their parents had an official poverty rate of 8.4%, but if their poverty status was determined using their own income, 45.3% had an income below the poverty threshold for a single person under age 65.

But one wonders if the doubling-up phenomenon is not all doom and gloom. Perhaps there are some unexpected pleasures that come with living with extended family members? Some would argue it is a return to our tribal roots.



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-- Deborah Netburn