Pleas for food stamps have reached a record high
The recession seems to be socking Americans in the heart as well as the wallet: Marriages have hit an all-time low while pleas for food stamps have reached a record high and the gap between rich and poor has grown to its widest ever.
The long recession technically ended in mid-2009, economists say, but U.S. Census data released Tuesday show the painful, lingering effects. The annual survey covers all of last year, when unemployment skyrocketed to 10 percent, and the jobless rate is still a stubbornly high 9.6 percent.
The figures also show that Americans on average have been spending about 36 fewer minutes in the office per week and are stuck in traffic a bit less than they had been. But that is hardly good news, either. The reason is largely that people have lost jobs or are scraping by with part-time work.
"Millions of people are stuck at home because they can't find a job. Poverty increased in a majority of states, and children have been hit especially hard," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau.
The economic "indicators say we're in recovery, but the impact on families and children will linger on for years," he said.
In America, marriages fell to a record low in 2009, with just 52 percent of adults 18 and over saying they were joined in wedlock, compared to 57 percent in 2000.
The never-married included 46.3 percent of young adults 25-34, with sharp increases in single people in cities in the Midwest and Southwest, including Cleveland, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Albuquerque, N.M. It was the first time the share of unmarried young adults exceeded those who were married.
Marriages have been declining for years due to rising divorce, more unmarried couples living together and increased job prospects for women. But sociologists say younger people are also now increasingly choosing to delay marriage as they struggle to find work and resist making long-term commitments.
In dollar terms, the rich are still getting richer, and the poor are falling further behind them.
The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its largest margin ever, a stark divide as Democrats and Republicans spar over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.
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