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Washington, D.C. – New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows the poverty rate dropped from 13.5 percent in 2015 to 12.7 percent in 2016 (latest figures available). That means 2.5 million fewer people are living in poverty than 2015.
While this is good news, 40.6 million Americans are still living in poverty. Bread for the World warned that proposed budget cuts could reverse the progress that has been made and push millions more families into poverty.
“It is certainly good news that the number of people living in poverty continues to decline in the U.S.,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We must keep building on this progress. But if Congress cuts programs that help families who are struggling, we will again see the number of people living in poverty rise.”
U.S. poverty rates fell or remained unchanged for every demographic group. For African-Americans, the poverty rate fell from 24.1 percent in 2015 to 22 percent in 2016. For Latinos, it fell from 21.4 percent to 19.4 percent, and for female-headed families, the rate fell by 1.6 percent. However, African-American and Latinos communities still have disproportionately higher rates of poverty than the general population.
Federal anti-poverty programs have substantially reduced poverty and hunger in the U.S. The official poverty rate does not take into account the benefits of many of these programs.
Without the earned income tax credit and child tax credit, 8.2 million more people would have lived in poverty in 2016. SNAP (food stamps) kept 3.6 million people out of poverty, including 1.5 million children. The school lunch program took 1.4 million people out of poverty.
“The best way to end poverty is to ensure people have access to jobs that provide a decent wage,” said Beckmann. He added that the reduction in poverty can be attributed, in part, to a 3.2 percent increase in the median household income – to $59,000 – as well as an increase in the number of Americans accessing health insurance. With more people insured, struggling households don’t have to make the difficult decision between purchasing food or medicine.
“Safety-net programs continue to keep millions of families out of poverty,” Beckmann said. “If Congress cuts these programs they will be pushing millions of people into poverty and hunger. We have come too far to go back now.”
Indigenous communities have some of the highest hunger rates in the United States. As a group, one in four Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are food insecure, defined as not having regular, reliable access to the foods needed for good health.
While hunger declined from 2017 for the general U.S. population, African Americans experienced a one percent increase, an increase of 153,000 African American households. This fact sheet explores the issue in depth.
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For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.
Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.
In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.
These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C.