US Census: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance, 2010

  • Poor are still getting poorer, but downturn’s punch varies, Census data show, By Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise, September 15, 2011, New York Times: “The discouraging numbers spilling from the Census Bureau’s poverty report this week were a disquieting reminder that a weak economy continues to spread broad and deep pain. And so it does. But not evenly. The Midwest is battered, but the Northeast escaped with a lighter knock. The incomes of young adults have plunged – but those of older Americans have actually risen. On the whole, immigrants have weathered the storm a bit better than people born here. In rural areas, poverty remained unchanged last year, while in suburbs it reached the highest level since 1967, when the Census Bureau first tracked it. Yet one old problem has not changed: the poor have rapidly gotten poorer. The report, an annual gauge of prosperity and pain, is sure to be cited in coming months as lawmakers make difficult decisions about how to balance the competing goals of cutting deficits and preserving safety nets…”
  • Health insurance, poverty: Numbers of poor, uninsured increase, census figures show, By Jeff Kunerth and Kate Santich, September 13, 2011, Orlando Sentinel: “More than 46.2 million Americans live in poverty – the highest number in the 52 years for which such estimates have been published, according to census figures released Tuesday. From 2009 to 2010, the nation’s poor increased by 2.6 million, and the number of those without health insurance grew by nearly 1 million people. In Florida, 3.8 million people – more than one in five – were without health insurance last year. Nationwide, the number of uninsured was closer to one in six. Census officials attributed the increase in poverty to the high numbers of unemployed Americans…”

State Medicaid Programs – North Dakota, Utah, California

  • Medicaid change delayed, By Dale Wetzel (AP), September 16, 2011, Jamestown Sun: “A chronically delayed new computer software system to handle North Dakota’s Medicaid bills, which was to be finished in nine months, will not be working until mid-2013, an executive told state legislators Thursday. The project was originally scheduled to be finished two years ago. Last summer, a vice president for the software’s developer, Affiliated Computer Services Inc., promised it would be functioning by June 2012. ACS is a unit of Xerox Corp…”
  • Utah explores extending Medicaid to inmates, By Kirsten Stewart, September 15, 2011, Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah health officials are exploring expanding the state’s Medicaid program to cover inmates’ hospital stays and doctors’ office visits. Inmates have traditionally been barred from the state-federal health insurance program, which caters to the poor and disabled. Currently, the Department of Corrections contracts directly with the University of Utah’s hospital and clinics for procedures that cannot be handled at the prison infirmary, and the state picks up the tab. Moving inmates onto Medicaid would shift most of the funding burden onto the federal government, explained state Medicaid director Michael Hales on Thursday at an advisory board meeting. In the past, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been loathe to shoulder what has long been a state obligation, said Hales. But the agency has recently signaled a willingness to bend the rules…”
  • Calif. Medicaid expansion: A lifeline for ex-convicts, By Sarah Varney, September 13, 2011, National Public Radio: “California has embarked on an ambitious expansion of its Medicaid program, three years ahead of the federal expansion that the health law requires in 2014. At least half a million people are expected to gain coverage – mostly poor adults who never qualified under the old rules because they didn’t have kids at home. Among those who stand to benefit right now are ex-offenders. Inmates often leave California prisons with no consistent place to get medical care. But that’s changing…”

Unemployment and Jobless Benefits

  • Unemployment rate rises in most states in August, By Derek Kravitz (AP), September 16, 2011, USA Today: “Unemployment rates rose in most states in August for a third straight month, further proof that job growth is weak nationwide. The Labor Department says unemployment rates increased in 26 states. They fell in 12 and remained unchanged in 12. Nevada had the nation’s highest unemployment rate among states at 13.4%. That is up from 12.9% in July. North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate, at 3.5%. That’s up from 3.3% in July. Nationwide, hiring fell significantly in August. The economy added no new net jobs, and the unemployment rate stayed at 9.1% for a second month…”
  • California unemployment rate hits 12.1% as employers slash jobs, By Alana Semuels, September 16, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “Unsettled by signs that the recovery is stumbling, California employers in August cut jobs for the second month in a row, helping push the unemployment rate to 12.1% from 12% in July. Payrolls fell by 8,400 positions last month, according to figures released Friday by the Employment Development Department. The losses are worrying to economists, who say turmoil at the state and national levels could continue through the fall. The country added no jobs in August. The national unemployment rate stands at 9.1%…”
  • Unemployment benefits extensions have small impact on jobless rate, By Sara Murray, September 16, 2011, Wall Street Journal: “Generous unemployment benefits have had little effect on the unemployment rate, according to a new study that may help ease concerns that benefits give sidelined Americans a disincentive to hunt for jobs. Unemployment insurance, which is available for up to 99 weeks in some states, nudged the jobless rate up 0.2 to 0.6 of a percentage point higher than it would have been otherwise, according to a new paper by Jesse Rothstein, a University of California, Berkeley economist and released at the Brookings Institution this week…”
  • Billions in unemployment benefits paid in error, By Sara Murray, September 14, 2011, Wall Street Journal: “Nearly $19 billion in state unemployment benefits were paid in error during the three years that ended in June, new Labor Department data show. The amount represents more than 10% of the $180 billion in jobless benefits paid nationwide during the period. (See a sortable chart of each states’ overpayments) The tally covers state programs, which offer benefits for up to 26 weeks, from July 2008 to June 2011. Layers of federal programs that help provide benefits for up to 99 weeks weren’t included…”

State Minimum Wage – Oregon

Minimum wage to rise, By Ilene Aleshire, September 16, 2011, Eugene Register-Guard: “Oregon’s minimum wage will go up 30 cents per hour, to $8.80, next year, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced Thursday. The increase mirrors a 3.77 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index since August 2010, Avakian said. ‘Safeguarding the wages of low-income workers is especially critical in a tough economy,’ Avakian said in a statement. ‘Oregon’s economy will not rebound if we allow 144,538 minimum wage earners to fall behind inflation.’ Oregon’s current minimum wage is the second-highest among all 50 states, behind only to Washington state’s $8.67, according to the nonpartisan Oregon Center for Public Policy. Washington will announce its 2012 minimum wage on Sept. 30, Avakian said…”

SAT Scores and Academic Achievement

  • SAT scores for class of 2011 decline in every aspect, By Carla Rivera, September 15, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “The high school graduating class of 2011 lost ground on every measure of the SAT exam, with reading scores nationally the lowest on record, prompting concern about whether students are being adequately prepared for college, officials said Wednesday. Average SAT scores for high school seniors dropped three points in reading, one point in math and two points in writing, according to a report by the College Board, a New York-based nonprofit that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement program…”
  • SAT reading scores drop to lowest point in decades, By Michael Alison Chandler, September 14, 2011, Washington Post: “SAT reading scores for graduating high school seniors this year reached the lowest point in nearly four decades, reflecting a steady decline in performance in that subject on the college admissions test, the College Board reported Wednesday. In the Washington area, one of the nation’s leading producers of college-bound students, educators were scrambling to understand double-digit drops in test scores in Montgomery and Prince William counties and elsewhere…”
  • Average Scores Slip on SAT, By Tamar Lewin, September 15, 2011, New York Times: “Average scores on the SAT fell across the nation this year, with the reading score for the high school class of 2011 falling three points to 497, the lowest on record, according to a report Wednesday by the College Board, which administers the exams. The average writing score dropped two points, to 489, and the math score was down one point, to 514. The College Board attributed the decline to the increasing diversity of the students taking the test. For example, about 27 percent of the nearly 1.65 million test-takers last year came from a home where English was not the only language, up from 19 percent a decade ago…”