U.S. Poverty Still Higher Than Before Recession, Census Reports


For Immediate Release: September 12th, 2017

Contact: Magen Allen                                                           

Mallen@hungerfreeamerica.org, (212) 825-0028, ext. 212


U.S. Poverty Still Higher Than Before Recession, Census Reports

Texas and Florida Had Higher Than Average Poverty Rates Before Storm
Advocates: “Natural Hurricane Disasters on Top of Human-Made Poverty Disasters”

Fully 40.6 million Americans – a population bigger than the combined populations of California and Maine lived in poverty in 2016, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2016 number was 3.3 million higher than in 2007, before the start of the recession, despite the reality that in 2016, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 13% and the collective net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans (according to Forbes) rose to $2.4 trillion.

The same Census report found that, while the 2014-2016 average poverty rate was 13.7 percent, it was 15.3 percent in Florida and 15.0 percent in Texas.

Said, Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, “The nation’s still sky-high poverty is a human-made disaster of epic proportions. Low-income Texans and Floridians suffer from the new natural disasters and must cope with them in addition to the long-standing human-made ones.  Government at all levels must react as seriously and comprehensively – and with as adequate resources – for both sets of disasters.”

Last week the federal government announced that 41.2 million Americans – including 12.9 million children – struggled against hunger nationwide in 2016. In contrast, in 2007, before the recession, 36 million Americans suffered from food insecurity.

The new Census report found that the poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites was 8.8 percent 2016, compared to 22.0 percent for Black Americans and 19.4 percent for Hispanics.  Continued Berg, “Nothing better illustrates the horrid racial divisions that still mar America than the reality that non-Whites are twice as likely to suffer poverty as Whites. Given that most Americans – of all races – who suffer from food insecurity are working in one or more jobs, the main reason for such disparities is clearly the result of the country’s deep, continuing, structural racism.” Yet, because the nation has more white than non-white people, the plurality of people in America who are poor are white.

In some good news, the Supplemental Poverty Measure just released by the Census Bureau found that safety net nutrition assistance programs significantly reduced poverty. The SNAP (Food Stamps) program lifted 3.6 million Americans out of poverty. Said Berg, “This proves, once again, the anti-hunger safety nets works.”

The Supplemental Poverty Measure also found that other elements of the safety net—school lunches and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) kept approximately 1.4 million and 300,000 people out of poverty, respectively.