Dr. Perryman explains the relevant numbers from the latest Census report, and how the nation can look to address poverty moving forward.
The Census Bureau reports the poverty rate fell to its lowest level in nearly two decades. Still, Dr. Perryman says there are about three million Texans living in poverty.
To say that 2020 has been a rough year is an extreme understatement. The pandemic and actions taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been disruptive and, in many cases, devastating. Millions have slipped into poverty, are now food insecure or face housing challenges, or are experiencing mental health issues.
The more than ten years of sustained economic expansion that preceded the pandemic, the longest period of growth in US history, brought notable progress across a broad spectrum. The latest income and poverty data from the US Census Bureau (through 2019) illustrate this point, indicating how the sustained strength benefitted individuals and families across the nation. Real (inflation-adjusted) median household income increased an impressive 6.8% between 2018 and 2019 to reach $68,703. It was the highest level since the series began (1967). It's an impressive increase from just five years prior in 2014, when median household income was $58,001, which was lower than five years prior to that in 2009 ($59,458). Keep in mind that the median is the level at which half are above and half are below; it's not just some huge gains at the top end driving the increases (although there has been some widening of the gap).
Poverty affects hundreds of millions of people around the globe despite centuries of efforts to alleviate it by myriad individuals, organizations, and programs. A primary issue is the complexity of the problem. A trio of Americans helped to implement and demonstrate a novel approach and have received this year's Nobel Prize in Economics (or, more formally, The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) for "their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty." The recipients are Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Michael Kremer of Harvard University.