Poverty in the United States

This Congressional Research Service report outlines detailed changes and statistics for 2016, plus a historical perspective of poverty in the USA.  Some of this information is particularly relevant to our club's Navajo Solar Lights service project

In 2016, approximately 40.6 million people, or 12.7% of the population, had incomes that fell below the official definition of poverty in the United States. These statistics represent a noticeable drop from the previous year, both in the number of poor, which had been 43.1 million in 2015, and the poverty rate (the percentage that were in poverty), which fell from 13.5%. In this brief, the numbers and percentages of those in poverty are based on the Census Bureau’s estimates.1 While this official measure is often regarded as a statistical yardstick rather than a complete description of what people and families need to live,2 it does offer a measure of economic hardship faced by the low-income population. The Census Bureau releases these poverty estimates every September for the prior calendar year. Hence, most of the comparisons discussed in this report are year-to-year comparisons. However, in addition to the most recent year’s data, this brief will present a historical perspective as well as information on poverty for demographic groups (by family structure, age, race and Hispanic origin, and work status) and by state. Over the past several decades, criticisms of the official poverty measure have led to the development of an alternative research measure called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which the Census Bureau has also computed and released. Statistics comparing the official measure with the SPM are provided at the conclusion of this brief. The SPM includes the effects of taxes and in-kind benefits (such as housing, energy, and food assistance) on poverty, while the official measure does not. Because some types of tax credits are used to assist the poor (as are other forms of assistance), the SPM may be of interest to policymakers. However, the official measure provides a comparison of the poor population over a longer time period, including some years before many current anti-poverty assistance programs had been developed. In developing poverty-related legislation and conducting oversight on programs that aid the low-income population, policymakers may be interested in these historical trends.  Read the entire report......


CRSThe Congressional Research Service (CRS) works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for more than a century.

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