Trends in Poverty in the United States

This report discusses trends in poverty in the United States. In 2004, 37 million people were found poor under the official poverty definition — a 1.1 million increase from 2003. The poverty rate, or percent of the population considered poor, increased for the fourth straight year, to 12.7% in 2004 — up from 12.5% in 2003, and 11.3% in 2000, its most recent low.

Order Code 95-1024 EPW Updated September 6, 2005 CRS Report for Congress Received through the CRS Web Trends in Poverty in the United States Thomas Gabe Domestic Social Policy Division Summary In 2004, 37 million people were found poor under the official poverty definition — a 1.1 million increase from 2003. The poverty rate, or percent of the population considered poor, increased for the fourth straight year, to 12.7% in 2004 — up from 12.5% in 2003, and 11.3% in 2000, its most recent low. The poverty rate in 2004 is still well below its most recent peak of 15.1%, in 1993. The highest rate recorded was 22.4% in 1959, the first year in the Census Bureau series. Persons are considered poor under the Census Bureau measure if their family’s pre-tax cash income is below a poverty income threshold for a family of similar size and composition. In 2004, for example, the poverty threshold for a family of 2, averaged $12,334 and for a family of 4, $19,307. This report will be updated annually. Poverty among Selected Groups. The poverty rate among children is higher than that of any other age group. In 2004 17.3 of all children were poor — still above the most low of 15.6% in 2000, but Figure 1. U.S. Poverty Rates by Age Group, 1959-2004 significantly lower than its most recent peak of 22% in 1993. Among children living in families with an absent father, 41.9% were poor, compared to 8.9% of children living in marriedcouple, families. In 1969, when the child poverty rate was at its historic low (13.8%), 11.4% of all children lived in families with an absent father. Although the poverty rate of children in female-headed families in 2004 is well below its 1969 level of 54.4%, the share of all children in such families in 2004 (23.6%) is twice what it was in 1969. In 2004, 57.2% of all poor children lived in female-headed families. 40 35 Aged 30 Children Poverty rate 25 Total 20 Non-aged adults Children (17.3%) 15 Total (12.7%) Non-aged adults (11.3%) Aged (9.8%) 10 5 Estimates unavailable from 1960 to 1965 00 20 95 19 90 19 85 19 80 19 75 19 70 19 65 19 19 60 0 Year Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress The poverty rate for the aged (persons age 65 and over) was 9.8% in 2004 — down from 10.2% in 2003. The poverty rate for the aged, once higher than that of children, dropped below the child poverty rate in 1974 and has remained below it since. The aged poverty rate in 2004 was below that of nonaged adults (11.3%) — in 1959 it was over twice that of nonaged adults. Poverty rates among African Americans and Hispanics are persistently higher than those of white non-Hispanics. In 2004, 24.7% of blacks and 21.9% of Hispanics (who may be of any race) were poor, compared to 8.6% of non-Hispanic whites. Racial data since 2002 are not comparable to earlier years due to persons being allowed to identify themselves as being of one or more races. Table 1. Poverty Rates for Selected Groups, 1959-2004 Related children under age 18 Adults Race/ethnicitya — all ages In femaleAges White All headed In all other 18Age nonYear persons Total families families 64 65+ Whitea Hispanica Blacka Hispanic 2004 12.7 17.3 41.9 9.9 11.3 9.8 10.8a 8.6a 24.7a 21.9 2003 12.5 17.2 41.8 9.6 10.8 10.2 10.5a 8.2a 24.4a 22.5 2002 12.1 16.3 39.6 9.2 10.6 10.4 10.2a 8.0a 24.1a 21.8 2001 11.7 15.8 39.3 8.8 10.1 10.1 9.9 7.8 22.7 21.4 2000r 11.3 15.6 40.1 8.6 9.6 9.9 9.5 7.4 22.5 21.5 1999 11.8 16.3 41.9 9.0 10.0 9.7 9.8 7.7 23.6 22.8 1998 12.7 18.3 46.1 9.7 10.5 10.5 10.5 8.2 26.1 25.6 1997 13.3 19.2 49.0 10.2 10.9 10.5 11.0 8.6 26.5 27.1 1996 13.7 19.8 49.3 10.9 11.3 10.8 11.2 8.6 28.4 29.4 1995 13.8 20.2 50.3 10.7 11.4 10.5 11.2 8.5 29.3 30.3 1994 14.5 21.2 52.9 11.7 11.9 11.7 11.7 9.4 30.6 30.7 1993 15.1 22.0 53.7 12.4 12.4 12.2 12.2 9.9 33.1 30.6 1992r 14.8 21.6 54.6 11.8 11.9 12.9 11.9 9.6 33.4 29.6 1991r 14.2 21.1 55.5 11.1 11.4 12.4 11.3 9.4 32.7 28.7 1990 13.5 19.9 53.4 10.7 10.7 12.2 10.7 8.8 31.9 28.1 1989 12.8 19.0 51.1 10.4 10.2 11.4 10.0 8.3 30.7 26.2 1988r 13.0 19.0 52.9 10.0 10.5 12.0 10.1 8.4 31.3 26.7 1987r 13.4 19.7 54.7 10.9 10.6 12.5 10.4 8.7 32.4 28.0 1986 13.6 19.8 54.4 10.8 10.8 12.4 11.0 9.4 31.1 27.3 1985 14.0 20.1 53.6 11.7 11.3 12.6 11.4 9.7 31.3 29.0 1984 14.4 21.0 54.0 12.5 11.7 12.4 11.5 10.0 33.8 28.4 1983 15.2 21.8 55.5 13.5 12.4 13.8 12.2 10.8 35.7 28.1 1982 15.0 21.3 56.0 13.0 12.0 14.6 12.0 10.6 35.6 29.9 1981 14.0 19.5 52.3 11.6 11.1 15.3 11.1 9.9 34.2 26.5 1980 13.0 17.9 50.8 10.4 10.1 15.7 10.2 9.1 32.5 25.7 1979 11.7 16.0 48.6 8.5 8.9 15.2 9.0 8.1 31.0 21.8 1978 11.4 15.7 50.6 7.9 8.7 14.0 8.7 7.9 30.6 21.6 1977 11.6 16.0 50.3 8.5 8.8 14.1 8.9 8.0 31.3 22.4 1976 11.8 15.8 52.0 8.5 9.0 15.0 9.1 8.1 31.1 24.7 1975 12.3 16.8 52.7 9.8 9.2 15.3 9.7 8.6 31.3 26.9 1974 11.2 15.1 51.5 8.3 8.3 14.6 8.6 7.7 30.3 23.0 1973 11.1 14.2 52.1 7.6 8.3 16.3 8.4 7.5 31.4 21.9 1972 11.9 14.9 53.1 8.6 8.8 18.6 9.0 n/a 33.3 n/a 1971 12.5 15.1 53.1 9.3 9.3 21.6 9.9 n/a 32.5 n/a 1970 12.6 14.9 53.0 9.2 9.0 24.6 9.9 n/a 33.5 n/a 1969 12.1 13.8 54.4 8.6 8.7 25.3 9.5 n/a 32.2 n/a 1968 12.8 15.3 55.2 10.2 9.0 25.0 10.0 n/a 34.7 n/a 1967 14.2 16.3 54.3 11.5 10.0 29.5 11.0 n/a 39.3 n/a 1966 14.7 17.4 58.2 12.6 10.5 28.5 11.3 n/a 41.8 n/a 1959 22.4 26.9 72.2 22.4 17.0 35.2 18.1 n/a 55.1 n/a Source: Table prepared by the Congressional Research Service based on U.S. Bureau of the Census data. Current Population Reports, series P-60 and CRS tabulations of Current Population Survey data. Note: Related children are children in primary families beginning in 1979. Before 1979, children in unrelated subfamilies are included as related children. a Beginning in 2002, CPS respondents could identify themselves as being of more than one race. Consequently, racial data for 2002 and after are not comparable to earlier years. Here, in 2002 and after, the term white means of white race alone and the term black means of black race alone. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are included among whites and blacks unless otherwise noted (i.e., white non-Hispanic). r = Revised estimates. n/a = Not available.