Unemployment Insurance Kept 3.3 Million Americans Out Of Poverty In 2009

Newly-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows “that the fraction of Americans living in poverty rose sharply to 14.3% from 13.2% in 2008 — the highest since 1994.” With 43.6 million Americans in poverty, it’s important for progressives to look to policies that can alleviate the country’s poverty problem.

Looking to the Census data, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’s (CBPP) Arloc Sherman discovers one of these policies. Sherman finds that unemployment insurance kept 3.3 million Americans out of poverty in 2009:

An exclusive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the new survey data shows that unemployment insurance benefits — which expanded substantially last year in response to the increased need — kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009.

In other words, there were 43.6 million Americans whose families were below the poverty line in 2009, according to the official poverty statistics, which count jobless benefits as part of families’ income. But if you don’t count jobless benefits, 46.9 million Americans were poor.

CBPP illustrates this number through a chart it created:

As ThinkProgress has documented, conservatives have done everything they can to delay extensions of unemployment benefits. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly locked arms to block extending the benefits for unemployed Americans, putting the wellbeing of jobless people in peril. And as the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo notes, a major chunk of 2009’s unemployment benefits were funded by the stimulus bill, which “House Republicans unanimously opposed.”


Conservatives have also demonized Americans — who, in the midst of recession are unable to find decent work — who receive unemployment insurance. NV GOP Senate candidate called the recipients of jobless benefits “spoiled,” former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich complained that “welfare” was keeping Americans from wanting to seek work, and conservative TV personality and Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein said the unemployed in need of benefits are “unpleasant people…who do not know how to do a day’s work.”