September 21, 2021

Poverty in U.S. Declined Thanks to Government Aid, Census Report Shows

The government defines poverty, under the more comprehensive definition, as an income level below about $30,000 for a family of four, although the exact threshold varies depending on family size, homeownership status and regional housing costs.

The decline in poverty last year was broad-based. It fell among all racial and ethnic groups, among all family types, and among Americans at every age and education level.

But government programs excluded some groups, such as undocumented immigrants and their families, and failed to reach others. Poverty was significantly higher than the overall average for Black and Hispanic Americans, foreign-born residents and those without college educations. Millions of people waited weeks or months to receive benefits, forcing many to turn to charities.

“We measure poverty annually, when the reality of poverty is faced on a day-to-day-to-day basis,” said Hilary Hoynes, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied the government’s response to the pandemic.

Nakitta Long, a single mother of two who was laid off from a North Carolina automotive plant at the start of the pandemic, said government aid helped her get back on her feet.

The first stimulus check helped cover rent and a car payment, and enhanced unemployment benefits helped sustain her family until she was called back to work in October.

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