Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Because of federal pandemic aid, overall U.S. poverty fell in 2020, especially among children and rural residents

Census Bureau chart; click the image to enlarge it.
Thanks to direct federal aid prompted by the pandemic, overall poverty in the U.S. declined from 2019 to 2020 among every age group, racial and ethnic group, and educational level, according to the latest Census Bureau figures.

Rural poverty fell a full percentage point further than urban poverty, and rural incomes fell less, but one in seven rural Americans were still living in poverty when the census was taken last April, Chuck Abbott reports for the The Food & Environment Reporting Network.

Federal pandemic aid "is widely credited by economists and policy experts for preventing another Great Depression," Heather Long and Amy Goldstein report for The Washington Post. "The stimulus payments provided $1,200 cash payments to most low-income and middle-class Americans last year, moving 11.7 million people out of poverty, the Census [Bureau] said. Another 5.5 million people were prevented from falling into poverty by the enhanced unemployment insurance aid."

From 2019 to 2020, rural poverty rates fell 3.3 percentage points, from 11.6% to 8.3%, while urban rates fell 2.5 percentage points, from 11.8% to 9.3%, according to a supplemental report. During the same time period, median household income fell 2.1 percentage points to $51,616 in rural areas, while in urban areas it fell 2.6 percentage points to $70,956.

Poverty among children was substantially reduced, thanks to direct aid and the newly expanded child tax credit, part of a pandemic aid package, The Economist notes. But though poverty was down, hunger was up in nine states, more people used food banks and emergency kitchens, and more children went hungry last year than in 2019, according to a recent Agriculture Department report.

"The official poverty rate rose slightly in 2020 to 11.4 percent, up from a record low 10.5 percent in 2019, but that figure leaves out much of the government aid," Long and Goldstein report. "After accounting for all the federal relief payments, the so-called supplemental poverty measure declined to 9.1 percent in 2020 — the lowest on record and a significant decline from 11.8 percent in 2019."

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