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New data paint an unpleasant picture of poverty in the US

By Steven Pressman ~ The Conversation ~

On Sept. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau released national poverty data for 2017.

The headline was that 39.7 million people were poor in 2017. This works out to 12.3 percent of the population or one in eight Americans. The good news is that the U.S. poverty rate has fallen since 2010, when it hit 15.1 percent, and is now where it was before the Great Recession.

The bad news is that poverty still exceeds the 11.3 percent rate of 2000 and far too many people are poor in a country that is so rich. Another bit of bad news is that things look even worse if we use what many scholars like myself believe is a better poverty measure.

Who is poor?

In 2017, women had higher poverty rates than men and minorities had higher poverty rates than non-Hispanic whites, mainly because women earn less than men and minorities receive lower wages on average than whites. For similar reasons, adults with lower education levels are more likely to be poor.

What’s more, having an additional adult able to earn money gives married-couple families much lower poverty rates than households headed by a single woman.

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