Census: Poverty dipped in 2020

An employee with the Share Food Program in Philadelphia drops off supplies to be given away. U.S. median income declined while poverty increased in 2020. Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

As the pandemic raged throughout 2020, poverty declined in the United States thanks to infusions of federal money, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the Supplemental Poverty rate, which takes family expenses and government aid into account, around 9.1% of Americans were poor in 2020, down from 11.8% in 2019.

The Census Bureau said that millions of Americans were lifted out of poverty by government stimulus checks, increased unemployment insurance, and other federal interventions.

The report also showed that the U.S. median household income declined in 2020. It was $67,521 last year, a decrease of 2.9% from the 2019 median of $69,560. This is the first statistically significant decline in median household income since 2011.

The Census Bureau also measured the official U.S. poverty rate, which does not take into account the government help. The official poverty was 11.4%, an increase of one percentage point between 2019 and 2020.

Under that measure, this is the first increase in poverty after five consecutive years of declining rates, according to the Census Bureau.

In 2020, the annual U.S. poverty rate for a family of four was $26,496.

“I think we have both these stories at once,” said Temple University sociologist Judith Levine, director of the school’s Public Policy Lab. “Official poverty went up, but the government was able to reduce it through stimulus spending.”

Among the non-Hispanic White population, 8.2% were in poverty in 2020, while the Hispanic population had a poverty rate of 17.0%.

Among the major racial groups examined in this report, the Black population had the highest poverty rate (19.5%), but did not experience a significant change from 2019.

The poverty rate for the Asian population (8.1%) in 2020 was not statistically different from 2019. The 2020 poverty rates for the Asian and non-Hispanic White populations were not statistically different.

These findings were contained in two Census Bureau reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020 and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2020.

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