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50 facts about poverty in America

  • 50 facts about poverty in America

    Before the coronavirus pandemic exploded across the United States, the poverty rate was falling.

    It was 10.5% in 2019, which was still 34 million poor people, but 4.2 million fewer than the year before, and the lowest rate recorded since estimates were first published in 1959, according to the Census Bureau.

    That changed as the pandemic upended the economy, forcing schools, businesses, restaurants, and shops to close, and throwing millions out of work. A study from Columbia University in New York City found that there were 8 million more poor people in October than in May as a result. Hardest hit have been Black and Latino Americans, the Urban Institute found, across the measures of lost income, food insufficiency, and concerns about paying rent or mortgages.

    At the height of the crisis in March 2020, nearly 7 million people were filing jobless claims. For many, that meant the loss of health insurance coverage during the country’s worst public health crisis in 100 years. The numbers of uninsured were already rising, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. They went from 26.7 million in 2016, up to 27.6 million in 2017, up again to 28.2 million in 2018, reaching 29.2 million in 2019. People without insurance could face large medical bills if they get COVID-19.

    Women were already more likely to be poor than men. In 2018, 12.9% of women lived in poverty, compared to 10.6% men. Now the pandemic is placing an unequal burden on women, who no longer have the support of schools and day care for child care. Many have left their jobs or are considering it, a trend that could worsen poverty for some.

    Stacker looked at data from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, charitable organizations, university studies, and other documents to compile this list of 50 facts about poverty in the United States.

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  • Poverty rate dropped in 2019

    The poverty rate in the United States dropped 1.3 percentage points in 2019, according to the Census Bureau. The rate was 10.5%, down from 11.8% in 2018.

  • Drop was fifth consecutive fall in poverty rate

    The decline in 2019 was the fifth consecutive yearly drop. The poverty rate has decreased from 14.8% in 2014 to 10.5%, a decline of 4.3 percentage points.

  • Rate is lowest since 1959

    The 2019 poverty rate of 10.5% is the lowest since 1959, when estimates were first published. The increase in full-time, year-round workers contributed to that number.

  • Women are more likely to be poor

    More women than men lived in poverty in 2018: 12.9% of women compared to 10.6% of men. Among married couples, the rate was just 4.7%, but for a family headed by a single mother, it soared to 24.9%.

  • More than 4.2 million people are poor

    In 2019, 34 million people were considered poor, a drop of 4.2 million people compared to 2018. The federal government defines the poverty threshold as about $25,700 a year for a family of four. That threshold is an unrealistically low number, according to critics, who point to the poverty threshold doesn't match the reality of costs of living. If it did, the number of people the federal government defines as poor would be much higher. 

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  • Household income rises

    At the same time, the median household income rose 6.8% to $68,703. All workers saw their real median earnings increase by 1.4% from 2018 to 2019, though the increase was smaller for full-time, year-round workers, at 0.8%. The cost-of-living increase for 2020 is 1.6%.

  • The number of workers increases

    Between 2018 and 2019, there was a 1.2 million increase in the number of full-time workers. The total of people with earnings rose even more, by 2.2 million.

  • Coronavirus pandemic causes economic slide

    When the coronavirus reached the United States in the spring of 2020, the economy tumbled. In just three months, between February and May, 14 percent of Americans lost their jobs. The unemployment rate skyrocketed from 3.5% in February to more than 19% in April.

  • Almost half of American households lose income

    By the end of April 2020, almost half of American adults lived in a household that had lost wages. The drop disproportionately affected lower-income workers.

  • Coronavirus pandemic results in long-term unemployed

    By September 2020 the economy had recovered about half of the 22 million jobs lost between February and April. Nonetheless, at the beginning of October 2020, 2.4 million people had not been employed for 27 weeks or more, considered long-term joblessness by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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