Downturn increases poverty in Alabama

Published 11:32 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BIRMINGHAM  (AP) — Newly released Census figures for 2009 underline the human toll of the Great Recession in Alabama, with household incomes falling and more residents living below the poverty line.

Some snapshots from the one-year statistical changes:

—In 2009, 17.5 percent of Alabama’s population, or 804,683 people, lived below the poverty level, well above the national figure of 14.3 percent and a 13.1 percent increase from 2008. The poverty level is $21,756 for a four-person household with two children.

—Of those in poverty in 2009, some 340,000 lived in deep poverty, which is income below half the poverty level.

—Median household income dropped 4.5 percent, to $40,489; nationally the drop was 2.9 percent, to $50,221.

—The number of households receiving food stamps rose by 26 percent.

“It’s not good news,” said Jim Carnes, spokesman for the anti-poverty advocacy group Alabama Arise in Montgomery. “We’re seeing record numbers on food stamps and insurance programs, and there really is a direct correlation — as the poverty rate increases, government services have a greater demand.”

Among the Census findings reported Wednesday by The Birmingham News was that the number of people in Alabama employed by the U.S. military doubled from .3 percent to .6 percent.

The state also continued to expand its health insurance coverage of children. In 2009, 93.8 percent of Alabama children were covered by private or public health insurance plans, a 2.4 percent increase over 2008. Nationally 91 percent were covered, up from 90.3 percent.

Among other new Census statistics reported by The Birmingham News:

—Alabama’s population was 4,708,708, an increase from 4,661,900 in 2008.

—The state’s population is 70 percent white, down from 70.3 percent, and 26.1 percent black, a figure basically unchanged from the year before. Hispanics grew from 2.8 percent to 3.1 percent of the state’s population, and Asians from 1 percent to 1.1 percent.

—Median home value dropped from $120,900 to $119,600, while the median monthly mortgage payment rose to $1,110 from $1,084.