Barack Obama's Legacy: Facts You Might Not Know
In today's chaotic world of fake news, "The alt-right" and deceptively-edited news clips, It is easy to forget the actual accomplishments of Barack Obama. For one, the president has an approval rating of over 52%, an unusually high approval rating for an outgoing president. To contrast, George W. had a 33% approval rating at the same time in his presidency.
A majority of Americans think president Obama has done a good job. There is a lot about this president's time in office you may not be aware of.
Here are some facts about Barack Obama's time as president of the United States Of America.
The flow of people caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally slowed markedly under Obama. In his final year, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended just under 443,000, down 35 percent from the year before he took office.
Though it’s impossible to know how many illegal crossings went undetected, the number of those apprehended is the best available indicator of the overall trend. The percentage decline under Obama was far less than the 58 percent decline under George W. Bush, who nearly doubled the number of agents stationed at the Southwest border. Under funding levels established by Bush, the number grew from 9,147 agents in fiscal year 2001 to 17,408 in FY 2009 (which began Oct. 1, 2008).
Under Obama, that number continued to increase, hitting a peak of 18,611 in FY 2013. The number then declined to 17,026 in fiscal year 2016.
Meanwhile, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally actually fell, from an estimated 11.7 million in 2008, to an estimated 11.0 million in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s a decline of roughly 700,000, or 6 percent.
Similarly, the Center for Migration Studies estimated that the population of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally dropped from 11,460,000 in 2008 to 11,045,000 in 2015, a decline of 415,000, or 3.6 percent. The CMS study attributed the decline to tighter airline security, increased enforcement at the border and improving economic conditions in Mexico.
Such estimates are inexact; those breaking the law by being here can’t be expected to confess that to Census officials. But demographers have applied consistent methodologies from year to year, and agree that the trend has been downward.
Jobs and Unemployment
Jobs — Over Obama’s eight years in office, the economy added a net total of more than 11.6 million jobs — a gain in total nonfarm employment of 8.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That percentage gain is not as large as for most other administrations since the end of World War II.
In fact, the only other post-war administrations to see smaller gains in employment were those of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, who eked out a bare 1 percent gain, Dwight D. Eisenhower (7.1 percent in his eight years), and Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush (2.5 percent during his four years).
Jimmy Carter saw a much stronger employment gain — 12.8 percent — despite the fact that his administration lasted only four years, half as long as Obama’s.
Obama had the unique disadvantage of taking office in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. More than 4 million jobs were lost in his first year in office, on top of the 4 million lost in George W. Bush’s final year.
To be sure, Bush’s eight years were marked by two recessions, including one that began two months after he took office in 2001. That helps explain why job creation on his watch was by far the worst of any post-war administration.
Both Bush and Obama also were bucking strong demographic trends. The surging percentages of women entering the job market, which started in the 1960s, peaked at the end of the Clinton administration. Also, “baby boomers” — those born in the years after WWII veterans returned from the war to take up family life — reached retirement age in great numbers during Obama’s time.
Labor Force Participation — Because of these and other factors, relatively fewer people said they wanted to work. Under Obama, the labor force — those either working or actively looking for a job — slipped from 65.7 percent of those age 16 and older to 62.9 percent.
Job Openings — With relatively fewer people seeking employment, a job shortage changed to a worker shortage under Obama. The Department of Labor reported that the number of unfilled job openings nearly doubled during Obama’s time, hitting just under 6 million in July 2016. That was at the time the highest in the more than 16 years that Labor Department statisticians had tracked this number.
Before Obama’s tenure, the only time job openings topped 5 million was January 2001. During Obama’s second term, there were 25 months with over 5 million openings. It has since continued to rise, topping 6 million for the first time in April 2017, under President Donald Trump.
Unemployment — The unemployment rate was high when Obama took office — 7.8 percent — and it continued to get worse in his first year. It peaked at 10 percent in October 2009 and didn’t drop below 9 percent until two years after that.
But slowly, and more or less steadily, the rate improved. By the time Obama left office, the jobless rate had dropped 3 full percentage points, an improvement exceeded only by the slightly bigger declines during the Clinton and Kennedy-Johnson administrations.
Income and Poverty
The inflation-adjusted incomes of American households reached the highest level ever recorded under Obama. The Census Bureau’s measure of median household income reached $59,039 in 2016. That was $2,963 more in “real” (inflation-adjusted) dollars than in 2008, for an overall gain of 5.3 percent.
The median figure represents the midpoint — half of all households earned more, half less. And while real median income hit a record level in Obama’s final year, it was a long, rough road to the top.
In fact, the 5.3 percent gain under Obama barely made up for the 4.2 percent loss under his predecessor. And for his first six years in office, median income was below the level in 2008.
Obama’s 5.3 percent gain was less than the 13.9 percent gain under Bill Clinton, and the 8.1 percent gain under Reagan. It is also pushed up to a degree by a change in the Census Bureau’s survey questions in 2014, designed to correct for under-reporting of certain types of income in previous years.
The trend to higher incomes also shows up in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report on average weekly earnings for all workers, adjusted for inflation. That figure, which includes salaried managers and supervisors, was 4.0 percent higher in the month Obama left office than it was in the month he first entered the White House. It was 3.7 percent higher for just production and nonsupervisory employees.
As incomes rose, the rate of poverty declined. The percentage of Americans living with income below the official poverty line went down to 12.7 percent of the population in 2016, a half-point drop compared with 2008.
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