Poverty in the United States rose dramatically last year, with child poverty more than doubling, as federal programs to help low-income families expired and the cost of living increased.
The Census Bureau reported Tuesday (Sep. 12) that the poverty rate rose to 12.4 in 2022 from 7.8 percent in 2021, noting that this is the first increase since 2010. Meanwhile, poverty among the nation’s children skyrocketed from a record low of 5.2 percent in 2021 to 12.4 in 2022. Those figures are based on the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in the impact of government assistance and geographical differences in the cost of living.
However, the sharp rise in poverty didn’t take economic experts by surprise.
“This basically is a return to pre-pandemic levels. It’s not as though it’s some high for U.S. poverty; it’s that in 2021 we had historic lows in poverty,” Robert Greenstein, a visiting fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, told The Washington Post, adding, “It’s a jump back to where we were before, which is still significantly higher than most Western European countries.”
Congress created or expanded several safety net programs during the COVID-19 pandemic to ease financial challenges, including rental assistance, enhanced unemployment benefits and child tax credit. Nearly all of those programs were allowed to expire last year. At the same time, inflation rose, reaching a 40-year high.
At the end of 2022, Democrats failed to push through an expanded version of the enhanced child tax credit that helped lift children out of poverty. Some Republicans opposed the tax credit over concerns that it would discourage parents from working.
President Joe Biden blamed Republican policy choices for the rise in child poverty.
“Today’s Census report shows the dire consequences of congressional Republicans’ refusal to extend the enhanced Child Tax Credit, even as they advance costly corporate tax cuts,” a White House statement said. “We cut child poverty by nearly half to record lows for all children in this nation largely by expanding the Child Tax Credit. Last year, Congressional Republicans insisted on raising taxes on families with children.”
Despite the nationwide increase in poverty, the condition was at its lowest for Black people at 17.1 percent in 2022, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report, dropping from a high of 55.1 percent in 1959. The Black population in America was one of the only major demographic groups to experience a significant change.
However, at 13.1 percent of the U.S. population, Black people represented 20.5 percent of those in poverty, meaning the group remained overrepresented.
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