Data Shows an Alarming Surge In Poverty Among Most Vulnerable
By Dolores Quintana
In a noteworthy development, the poverty rate in the United States marked an increase last year, according to data released by the Census Bureau. This uptick, the first in over a decade, has raised concerns about the economic well-being of Americans.
The poverty rate stood at 12.4% in late 2022, reflecting a 4.6% surge from the preceding year, as indicated by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM takes into account various government programs and tax credits designed to support low-income families, offering a comprehensive view of poverty in the nation.
The Census Bureau attributed this rise in poverty primarily to the expiration of crucial pandemic-related initiatives, including refundable tax credits and stimulus payments, at the outset of 2022. The official poverty rate was surpassed by the SPM, shedding light on the vulnerability of certain segments of the population.
Of particular concern is the substantial increase in child poverty, which more than doubled from 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% in the past year, according to census data. This surge aligns with the conclusion of the child tax credit expansion, which ceased on December 31, 2021.
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan provided parents with monthly payments ranging from $250 to $300 per child starting in July 2021. Prior to this expansion, a significant portion of children across the country did not qualify for the full Child Tax Credit due to their families’ low incomes, according to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.
President Biden, who had previously lauded the enhanced child tax credit as a means to halve child poverty, expressed strong criticism toward congressional Republicans for not extending the credit. He asserted that the recent increase in child poverty stems directly from their refusal to prolong this financial support.
“The rise reported today in child poverty is no accident—it is the result of a deliberate policy choice congressional Republicans made to block help for families with children while advancing massive tax cuts for the wealthiest and largest corporations,” stated The White House. “No child should grow up in poverty, and I will continue to fight to restore the expanded Child Tax Credit to give tens of millions of families the tax relief and breathing room they deserve.”
The Census Bureau’s data also highlighted the significant role played by Social Security in alleviating poverty. Last year, Social Security benefits allowed approximately 28.9 million individuals to rise out of SPM-defined poverty. The report recognized Social Security as the “most important antipoverty program in 2022.”
In terms of racial disparities, the official poverty rate for Black Americans decreased by 2.4%, dropping from 19.5% in 2021 to 17.1% in 2022, according to census data. Asian Americans also experienced a decline in the official poverty rate, which fell from 9.1% in 2021 to 8.6% in the past year. However, White Americans saw a modest increase of 0.5% in poverty, reaching 10.5% in 2022, as per census data.
It is important to note that the official poverty rate is calculated by comparing pre-tax income to a poverty threshold adjusted based on family composition, according to the Census Bureau.