(I wrote this story with my colleagues Dana Williams and John Maines.)
South Florida household incomes fell in 2009 to the lowest level in at least three years, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report. In addition, far more Floridians are living without health insurance than the national average and the number of Palm Beach County families with young children living in poverty skyrocketed to nearly one in five, the report said.
South Floridian’s median household income – half had more and half had less – plummeted by more than 10 percent in both Broward and Palm Beach counties between 2007 and 2009, the Census said. That left South Floridians with a smaller median income than in 2006.
The figures, adjusted for inflation, show a far steeper decline in the standard of living in South Florida than the nation, where real median household income over the same two years fell only 4.1 percent. Consumer spending in Florida is down. And economists say fallout from the recession crisis in Florida continues to pose remains a huge challenges for tens many
Floridians despite the official end of the nationwide recession one year ago.
“This is a look backward at the carnage wrought by the financial crisis and recession,” said economist Sean Snaith of the University of Central Florida. When this year’s data comes out, it “will likely not show a great deal of improvement unfortunately, but we are beginning a long slow climb out of a deep hole.”
The data collected during 2009 are part of the American Community Survey. The ongoing survey provides cities, counties and states with annual information about housing, economics and demographics. Results from the larger, 10-year Census, will start coming out at the end of this year.
Florida families are having to make tough choices in the face of declining incomes. One seems to be continuing to avoid paying for health insurance. The Census report shows almost 21 percent of Floridians had no health insurance in 2009. While that represents only a slight increase over 2008, Florida's ranks of the uninsured dwarf the national average by almost two and a half times.
Here is a closer look at the data:
For the second straight year, median household income dropped in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In Broward County, the median household income was $48,844 in 2009, down from $50,657 in 2008 and $54,420 in 2007. That's a 10.2 percent drop in two years. In 2006, the median income was $53,405. The Census Bureau did not provide figures for local income in earlier years. Palm Beach County also had a 10.1 percent drop from 2007 to 2009. Median household income was $49,580 in 2009; $52,399 in 2008 and $55,175 in 2007. In 2006, it was $54,672.
Statewide, Floridians’ median household income dropped 9.6 percent in two years.
Health insurance coverage
While the nation had fewer uninsured residents than before, Florida's proportion of uninsured residents went up between 2007 and 2009.
Florida had 20.9 percent of its population without health insurance in 2009. The national figure is 8.6 percent. Florida's figure was up from 20.2 percent in 2008. The national figure was down from 9.3 percent.
Only about half of all Floridians have private insurance, according to the Census.
In Palm Beach County, more than one in five families with children under the age of 5 had income below the poverty level in 2009 -- $10,830 for an individual, $22,050 for a family of four. The 20.9 percent figure is a huge jump from 2008, when it was 13.8 percent.
“We’ve been getting a tremendous number of calls from people about basic needs and about requests for financial assistance,” said Diane Huff, director of community services at 211 Palm Beach and The Treasure Coast. That is the county's central hotline for referrals to social service and welfare agencies and groups.
In the first nine months of this year, she said 211 Palm Beach alone logged a 17 percent jump in calls from families with children younger than 18 who needed help with shelter, rent or subsidized housing.
Broward’s poverty rate for families with young children, on the other hand, was almost flat. It grew to 12.5 percent from 11.5 percent. That was not considered to be statistically significant.
Statewide, Florida saw poverty among families with young children grow to 17.5 percent of the population, up from 15.3 percent.
Nationally, the poverty rate of 16.6 percent was the highest in 16 years. It rose from 15.2 percent in 2008.
“Nobody should be surprised by this trend,” said retired money manager Gene Inger, who lives in Fort Lauderdale and publishes a daily financial website. “Actually it's amazing it's not worse as no new growth engines (for the economy) have developed in South Florida.”
The nationwide recession was the deepest since the Great Depression, with a 4.1 percent decline in economic output from the peak to the bottom. The hit was even harder on Floridians’ standard of living, said Economist J. Antonio Villamil, who is also the business dean for St. Thomas University in Miami. “This deep decline is going to take years to work out.”
Health Insurance Coverage in Florida, South Florida
|County national rank, no health insurance||Geography||No health insurance 2008||No health insurance 2009||Private health insurance 2008||Private health insurance 2009||Public health insurance 2008||Public health insurance 2009|
|69th||Palm Beach ||18.7%||20.9%||67.1%||63.0%||30.4%||31.7%|
| || || || || || || || |
| || || || || || || || |
| ||United States||9.3%||8.6%||69.6%||67.4%||27.3%||28.5%|
Median Household Income in Florida, South Florida
| ||income 2009||income 2008||change 08-09||income 2007||change 07-09||income 2006||Change 06-09|
|Broward County, Florida||$48,844|| $ 50,657||-4%||$54,420||-10%||$53,405||-9%|
|Miami-Dade County, Florida||$41,533||$44,163||-6%||$45,069||-8%|| $ 43,790||-5%|
|Palm Beach County, Florida|| $49,580||$52,399||-5%||$55,175||-10%||$54,672||-9%|
|All Florida||$44,736||$47,452||-6%||$49,465||-10%|| $48,289||-7%|
|All U.S.||$50,221|| $51,726||-3%||$52,384||-4%||$51,530||-3%|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
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