Sep 16, 2019

Medical costs are driving millions of people into poverty

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care expenses forced 8 million Americans into poverty in 2018, according to the Census Bureau.

The big picture: That's actually an improvement from the past several years, when an annual average of 11 million people fell into poverty because of medical costs — a reflection of the country's expensive system.

How it works: The Census Bureau tracks how various social programs and daily expenses influence poverty rates.

  • Social Security, SNAP benefits and housing subsidies are among the most effective anti-poverty programs.
  • But year after year, medical expenses remain "the largest contributor to increasing the number of individuals in poverty," according to the Census Bureau.
  • Most people who have insurance and who make less than 150% of the federal poverty level don't have enough liquid assets to cover a $1,500 deductible.

The bottom line: People who don't have insurance have the highest risk of falling into poverty, due to the high prices of drugs and procedures.

  • But even working Americans who have coverage are facing bleaker financial futures because employers have shifted more health care costs onto their shoulders.

Go deeper: Other developed countries limit out-of-pocket medical expenses

Go deeper

Poverty is still a huge problem in America

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

You might have heard that the poverty rate in America has finally fallen below its pre-recession level — but what has been less reported is that the number of Americans living in poverty is still higher than it was in 2007.

Why it matters: It's even higher than it was in 1964, when the War on Poverty began.

Go deeperArrowSep 21, 2019

States spend big money for 2020 Census

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

States and cities have set aside bigger budgets than ever to prepare for the once-a-decade population count, with Washington's harsh immigration stance as a backdrop.

Why it matters: While the official Census count doesn't get under way until April, officials worry that immigrants won't complete the necessary forms for fear of retaliation.

Go deeperArrowOct 12, 2019

Limited broadband access hurts economic mobility in poorest states

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Among the states that have fallen furthest behind on broadband access, a new Census Bureau report found that several also have some of the highest levels of poverty in the nation.

Why it matters: Inequality and the lack of broadband access have become inherently intertwined in the U.S. Without reliable high-speed internet access, it is more difficult to apply to the jobs and educational programs that can help people escape poverty. Similarly, those on limited incomes struggle to afford broadband access even where it's available.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019