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.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • Mass Incarceration: A Major Cause of Hunger

    Mass incarceration has far-reaching effects in the United States. It poses a significant barrier to ending U.S. hunger and poverty by 2030—a goal the United States adopted in 2015. But the connection is not always obvious.

  • Advancing Nutrition through Food Aid Reform

    The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance that includes nutritious food for pregnant women and young children is both a life-and-death matter for individuals and an economic imperative for countries.

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    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.


  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...

  • Health Care Is a Hunger Issue

    Learn more about the principles that Bread for the World supports regarding health reform.


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