September 13, 2016

U.S. Poverty Rate Drops, But Still Remains High

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

Washington, D.C. – New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the poverty rate dropped from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015 (latest figures available). That means 3.5 million fewer people are living in poverty. Bread for the World is encouraged by this significant improvement, but points out that 43.1 million Americans are still living in poverty.    

“While these new numbers are encouraging, far too many families are still living in poverty,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We need to elect leaders who will focus on ending poverty, and ensure that safety net programs for those struggling are fully funded.” 

Poverty rates fell or remained unchanged for every demographic group. For African-Americans, the poverty rate fell from 26.2 percent in 2014 to 24.1 percent in 2015. For Latinos, it fell from 23.6 percent to 21.4 percent, and for female-headed families, the rate fell from 33.1 percent to 30.4 percent.

The official poverty rate does not account for most federal anti-poverty programs, which continue to keep millions of people out of poverty. Without the earned income tax credit and child tax credit, the official poverty rate would have been 2.9 percentage points higher. SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) kept 4.6 million people out of poverty in 2015, including 2 million children, and the school lunch program reduced poverty by 0.4 percent. 

The best way to end poverty is to ensure people have access to jobs that provide a decent wage. In fact, the reduction in poverty can be attributed, in part, to a 5.2 percent increase in median household income – the first annual increase in median household income since 2007.

“Congress must make ending hunger a priority,” said Beckmann. “Lawmakers can start now by passing a fiscal year 2017 budget, working to create good-paying jobs, and strengthening the safety net so that families who hit a rough patch are not permanently left behind.

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