NPR: Poverty Rates Highest Since 1997 (and maybe higher than in the last 50 years?)

NPR: Poverty Rates Highest Since 1997:

David Johnson, a senior statistician with the Census Bureau, says the increase is clearly linked to jobs.

“Children in nonworking families, children in female-headed households, children in families that receive food stamps, their poverty rate didn’t change much,” Johnson says. “Whereas children in earner households, the poverty was affected a lot. So you see a lot of it tied to the earnings change in 2007, 2008.”

That makes a lot of people nervous. If things were so bad last year, what about now?

“These numbers are grim — grimmer than we expected,” says Robert Greenstein, head of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He notes that joblessness continues to rise.

“This creates a very serious concern, that if we already were at just under 40 million Americans in poverty in 2008 — before the biggest increases in unemployment — poverty is going to go much higher than that in 2009 and 2010,” Greenstein says.

In fact, he predicts that it could go higher than it’s been in 50 years.