December 17, 2020
As 2019 ended we received exciting news concerning both income and poverty rate in the US. Income had grown and poverty had plummeted as a result. The official poverty rate fell to a record low of 10.5 percent in 2019. Over 4 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2018 and 2019 for a 1.3 percentage point decrease. This was the largest reduction in poverty in over 50 years. Even more encouraging was minority groups led the way in poverty alleviation. Compared to the overall poverty rate reduction of 1.3 percentage points, black poverty fell by 2.0 percentage points, Hispanic poverty fell by 1.8 percentage points, and Asian poverty fell by 2.8 percentage points. Notably, the black poverty rate fell below 20 percent for the first time in history.
That was then, this is now. Statistics for 2020 indicate over 8 million people have slipped into poverty since May, or an average of over 1 million per month. The reality is more staggering, as 6 million of these people have dropped into poverty during the last 3 months. This is more concerning when you consider an estimated 4 million people came out of poverty in response to the stimulus checks received in May. This coincides with the 885,000 claims for unemployment last week, up from 862,000 the previous week. As we have learned, this does not include those who have given up or are no longer receiving assistance from government agencies. Most of these workers are BIPOC.
Other studies have found that Black and Latino people are more than twice as likely as whites to live below the poverty level (currently $26,200 for a family of four) and child poverty has risen an additional 2.5 million just since May. Both minority groups disproportionately work in industries hard-hit by the recession and are prone to layoffs. Blacks disproportionately live in Southern states where benefits are low, and some Latinos are disqualified because they lack legal status. Many employers are still slashing jobs as the pandemic forces more business restrictions and leads many consumers to stay home.
Thoughts: During the presidential debates Andrew Yang suggested a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month for every single adult in America. Yang stated, “Putting money into peoples’ hands and keeping it there wouold be a perpetual boost and support to job growth and the economy.” That means every couple with two children would be guaranteed to live below the poverty level. While many defamed the idea as “socialism,” the only thing that has made an impact on the poverty level this year has been a one-time stimulus of $1,200 per adult. Economic insecurity is the force driving much of the civil and political unrest in America. It must be addressed. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.