The number of Georgians living in poverty rose sharply during the Recession, according to census figures released Tuesday. Poverty is also on the rise nationally but the decline in median income is much steeper in Georgia.
The new data shows that Georgia's poverty rate was the third highest in the country in 2010, up two spots from last year, with more than 1.8 million residents counted among the poor.
More than eighteen percent of Georgians, or nearly one out of every five residents, now lives in poverty.
In the past two years, Georgia’s median income dropped by $8,000 to $44,000.
That's a concern, says Clare Richie with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
“I think it’s startling from the perspective of the fact that Georgia’s median income dropped more than any other state in the nation, except for Hawaii,” she said.
Nationally, the median income is $49,000, down 2.3 percent, and the poverty rate is 15.1 percent. A family of four living in poverty earns about $22,000 a year.
“We’re facing a tougher circumstance in our state than what the experience might be spread nationally," she said. "We’ve had continued high unemployment and that plays into this. We have a state where we’ve also overwhelmingly relied on budget cuts to deal with our revenue shortfall, and that can make it harder for struggling families to get by."
The census also reported that the percentage of working-age Georgians with employer-provided health insurance stands at 55 percent. That's a sharp decrease from 2000 when nearly 70 percent of state residents received health benefits from their companies.