Millions of American families fell into poverty last year as the well of government-funded pandemic aid dried up and incomes fell, according to new data from the US Census. Children were particularly hard hit, with the child poverty rate doubling compared to 2021.
The sharp increase in poverty is “staggering,” Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a statement. Parrott pointed to the end of the expanded federal child tax credit in 2022 as a reason for the sharp increase in child poverty and urged lawmakers to reinstate the benefit.
The increase in poverty equates to an increase of 15.3 million people around the United States living in poverty, according to the left-leaning think tank.
Biggest increase in poverty in over half a century
The latest Census data underscores the dichotomy of the post-pandemic economy, which has been marked by a strong labor market but also rising inflation that has hampered many households. Last year also marked the end of all pandemic-era benefits that helped families stay afloat during the health crisis, such as stimulus checks and the Child Tax Credit, which doled out as much as $300 per child in cash payments.
“The increase in the poverty rate, the largest on record in over 50 years, both overall and for children, underscores the critical role that political choices play in the level of poverty and deprivation in the country,” Parrot said.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which measures whether people have enough resources to meet their needs, was 12.4% for US households in 2022, up 4.6 percentage points from a year earlier, the census said on Tuesday.
The child poverty rate, as measured by the SPM, jumped from a historic low of 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022, the census said. That’s the biggest change in child poverty since the census began tracking SPM in 2009, census officials said.
The SPM includes income as well as the impact of non-cash assistance such as food assistance and housing assistance. It also deducts some expenses from income, such as medical expenses, childcare and the cost of commuting.
If the expanded child tax credit had been renewed, about 3 million extra children would have been kept out of poverty last year, while child poverty would have been about 8.4% instead of 12.4%, the CBPP said.
Americans earn less
American households also earned less last year, the Census said. The median household income in 2022 was $74,580, down 2.3% from 2021 and the third year in a row that incomes have declined.
“These are statistically significant declines,” Rob Wilson, president of Employco USA and an expert on employment trends, said in an email. “While many people rushed to defend the decline in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is very concerning that Americans’ incomes are still falling even now.”
Wages are not keeping up with inflation, leading to the drop in income, he added.
Asian Americans had the highest median household income at nearly $109,000, while black Americans had the lowest at about $53,000.
—With reporting from the Associated Press.