How Wall Street and Washington broke faith with working families

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 Updated:

People seeking jobs in Los Angeles

Reed Saxon/AP

Household incomes fell and the number of Americans in poverty surged last year as the stubborn hangover from the Great Recession lingered.

The 2010 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau offered a grim picture of working class America:

  • The real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, down by 6.4 percent since 2007.
  • The ranks of the poor swelled by 2.6 million Americans, as the poverty rate rose to 15.1 percent, its highest level since 1993.
  • And some 900,000 more Americans were without health insurance, pushing the total close to 50 million.

The number of men working full time, year-round has dropped by 6.6 million since 2007. Some 6 million young adults, aged 25 to 34, are living with their parents, rather than launching independent lives. The poverty rate for children jumped to 22 percent.

The Census figures, which cover the first full calendar year after the recession, were released as the Center for Public Integrity embarks on a new election-year project. It is the saga of how corporate actions and government decision have left America’s working families with falling wages and shrinking benefits, and jobs shipped overseas.

We will be telling this story with the help of those most affected by hard times: the members of American working class families, struggling to cope with debt, unemployment and other unyielding pressures, who open their lives to us and agree to share their experiences.

These are the Americans who paid the price of the Great Recession. But even before the latest economic crunch, they were facing dire straits as factories closed, the cost of education and health care soared, and income inequality soared. From our vantage point in the nation’s capital, we will trace the forces arrayed against these families, and the deals and decisions made on Capitol Hill.

It is a big story, and we will need help. The Huffington Post and other media outlets will serve as partners in this effort. And on Monday night, reporters from the Center welcomed journalism students at the University of Maryland, who will work with us, contacting families and tying their stories to the actions taken in Washington.

Join us. If you are unemployed, or have seen your job shipped overseas, or feel you are in danger of losing your house, share your story. If you are an expert in politics or economics, alert us to the latest developments in the field. If you work in business or government, and witness a betrayal of your fellow Americans, tip us off at RawDeal@publicintegrity.org.

We’re calling the series: Raw Deal: How Wall Street and Washington broke faith with working families.

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