The Poverty Report Shows 'Doubling-Up' Is on the Rise

Last Updated Sep 14, 2011 2:31 AM EDT

The latest poverty report from the Census is out today. The bottom line is that the poverty rate increased to 15.1 percent in 2010, the highest level since 1993. That's a sign that our social insurance programs, particularly our automatic stabilizers, could be improved.

But I want to focus on a different aspect of the report highlighted in a Census blog, the number of households that have "doubled-up":
Households Doubling Up, by David Johnson, US Census Bureau: In coping with economic challenges over the past few years, many of us have combined households with other family members or individuals. These "doubled-up" households are defined as those that include at least one "additional" adult â€" in other words, a person 18 or older who is not enrolled in school and is not the householder, spouse or cohabiting partner of the householder.
The Census Bureau reported today that the number and share of doubled-up households and adults sharing households across the country increased over the course of the recession... In spring 2007, there were 19.7 million doubled-up households, amounting to 17.0 percent of all households. Four years later, in spring 2011, the number of such households had climbed to 21.8 million, or 18.3 percent.
All in all, 61.7 million adults, or 27.7 percent, were doubled-up in 2007, rising to 69.2 million, or 30.0 percent, in 2011.
Young adults were especially hard-hit, with 5.9 million people ages 25 to 34 living in their parents' household in 2011, up from 4.7 million before the recession. That left 14.2 percent of young adults living in their parents' households in March 2011, up more than two percentage points over the period.
These young adults who lived with their parents had an official poverty rate of only 8.4 percent, since the income of their entire family is compared with the poverty threshold. If their poverty status were determined by their own income, 45.3 percent would have had income falling below the poverty threshold for a single person under age 65. ...
The consequences of this will be permanent for many of these young workers. As I explained in a previous post:
There's evidence that the first job a person takes has a large influence on their lifetime earnings. When young workers have trouble finding employment and settle for a job that doesn't make the best use of their talents, and then get stuck in those jobs as they buy cars, houses, have families to support, etc., they suffer permanent losses of income.
Some will drop out altogether, and others will find their way into underground markets -- e.g. work for "under the table" pay -- that don't necessarily make the best use of their talents. The point is that the longer the unemployment problem persists, the larger and more permanent the effects, and young workers are no exception.

Avoiding these long-term costs and the wasted human potential that comes with them is yet another reason to pursue an aggressive job creation policy, far more aggressive than we've seen to date.

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