September 13, 2017

Budget Cuts Could Reverse Progress on U.S. Poverty

U.S. Capitol Building. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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.”  

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • Election Resources

    One of the best times to raise the issues of hunger and poverty is during election campaigns. Engage candidates in your state/district on hunger and poverty using our elections resources.
  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Conflict and Fragility Are Hunger Issues

    Conflict is a main driver of the recent increase in hunger around the world and of forced migration. Hunger also contributes to conflict.

For Faith

  • The Bible on Health as a Hunger Issue

    “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith.” These words from Colossians 2:6 remind us of the faith that is active in love for our neighbors.

    The Bible on...

  • 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.

For Advocacy


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