Census Bureau: New Report Released on the Patterns of Poverty

A new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows 34.0% of the U.S. population was in poverty for at least two months between January 2013 and December 2016. The report, Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Poverty, 2013–2016, presents data on poverty based on information collected in the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The report describes patterns of poverty and provides a view of the duration that people endure poverty and the frequency of transitions into and out of poverty. The report also examines how poverty dynamics vary across demographic groups.

Other highlights:

  • Monthly poverty declined from 17.7% in January 2013 to 13.3% in December 2016.
  • The average monthly poverty rate from January 2013 to December 2016 was 15.2%.
  • During the 48-month period, the median length of a poverty spell (duration of poverty) was 11.1 months, and 35.4% of poverty spells ended within six months. 
  • The percentage of people continuously in poverty all 48 months from January 2013 through December 2016 was 2.8%.
  • Over the January 2013 to December 2016 period, 24.3% of poverty spells experienced by Black individuals lasted at least 24 consecutive months. In contrast,16.1% of poverty spells were experienced by non-Hispanic White individuals lasted 24 consecutive months or longer.
  • Overall annual poverty declined from 16.3% in 2013 to 12.3% in 2016.
  • In 2016, 27.5% of individuals in annual poverty in 2013 were still in poverty.
  • In 2013, 21.9 million people had annual incomes below 50% of the annual poverty threshold.  In 2016, 25.9% of these individuals still had incomes below 50% of the annual poverty threshold, while 27.3% of them had incomes above 200% of the annual poverty threshold.

The SIPP collects information on the short-term dynamics of employment, income, household composition, and eligibility and participation in government assistance programs. It is a leading source of information on specific topics related to economic well-being, family dynamics, education, wealth and assets, health insurance, childcare and food security. The SIPP collects data on the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States.

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