New census data shows poverty up, incomes down in 2020, government aid helped
Posted September 14, 2021 in Press Releases
Policy Matters releases statement with preliminary analysis, more to come
Today, the Census Bureau released the highly anticipated 2020 income and poverty data. Last year, 11.4% of Americans lived below the official poverty line ($26,496) — an increase of 1 percentage point over 2019, when the poverty rate was 10.5%. Last year marks the first increase in the national overall poverty rate after five consecutive years of decline. The 2020 national median household income was $67,521, a 2.9% drop from 2019, the first real (inflation-adjusted) decline since 2011.
Had it not been for government programs in response to the COVID recession, the data show that 2020 would have been a break from recent improvements in poverty and income. When examining the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) report, which includes the effect of government programs, the national poverty rate dropped to 9.1%, 2.6 percentage points lower than in 2019, and the lowest recorded SPM since 2009. The SPM poverty rate was also lower than the official poverty rate by 2.3 percentage points in 2020. Ohio’s, 2020 SPM poverty rate for is 9.3%, 3.1 points less than 12.4% in 2019. In 2019, the poverty rate dropped 1.3 points from 11.8% in 2018 — the lowest poverty rate reported since the Bureau published the first initial poverty estimates in 1959. In 2019, the national median household income was $68,703, a 6.8% increase over the 2018 level, $64,324.
Policy Matters Ohio State Policy Fellow Dr. Tanisha Pruitt released the following statement about the preliminary data:
“Last year, the pandemic recession dealt a painful blow to many Ohioans, especially those who were paid the least and had the fewest resources to withstand it. The concurrent drop in poverty using the Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that when policymakers choose to step up, government can be a powerful force to strengthen families and care for all people, no exceptions. Measures like pandemic unemployment insurance, social security, extension of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), stimulus checks and the child tax credit helped keep an estimated 53 million people out of poverty.
“The reversing trend in median household income reflects the high job loss in the United States during the coronavirus recession. In July, Ohio had 269,000 fewer jobs than before COVID and many of the jobs destroyed during the shutdown were low paying to begin with. For example, the leisure and hospitality industry had 28% fewer jobs at the end of 2020 compared to the previous year. Ohioans continue to face difficult choices about how to put food on the table, pay rent, and hold down jobs given the risks and complexities created by the delta variant. Our federal and state policymakers cannot turn a blind eye to this continued hardship, especially in Black, Latino, Indigenous and immigrant communities.”
Typically, the Census Bureau releases state level poverty and income data through the American Community Survey (ACS), a tool used to provide information on the economic conditions of people living in states and communities. This year, however, the Census Bureau announced that due to overwhelming data collection issues as a result of the pandemic, the data are too unreliable to release. The Census Bureau does plan to release some “experimental” ACS data but are urging users to take caution in their analysis of the data.
Follow Tanisha on Twitter @Dr_TSPruitt for further analysis of the Census Bureau poverty data in her upcoming blog which will take a deep dive into the numbers.