The share of Americans living in poverty rose slightly as the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the economy last year, but massive relief payments by Congress eased the hardship for many.
WASHINGTON — The share of Americans living in poverty rose slightly as the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the economy last year, but massive relief payments by Congress eased the hardship for many, the Census Bureau said. reported on Tuesday.
The official poverty measure showed an increase of 1 percentage point in 2020, indicating that 11.4% of Americans were living in poverty. This was the first increase in poverty after five consecutive annual declines.
But a more fully complementary measure of poverty, which takes into account income streams such as stimulus payments, actually showed that the share of people in poverty had decreased after aid.
The pandemic shutdown sent shockwaves through the economy last year. In April alone, more than 20 million workers lost their jobs. Unemployment offices paid an average of 20 million claims weekly last year. The economy has recovered since then, but employment is still around 5 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.
As Americans battled over measures such as wearing masks and closing businesses and community life, lawmakers on both sides were prompted to take dramatic action, said economist Bruce Meyer, a University of Chicago expert on poverty.
“You had Democrats who were very focused on helping the unemployed and hurt, and you had Republicans who were willing to do a lot of things to help their presidential re-election, hence the encouragement by politicians, Or there was a confluence of desires on both sides,” he said.
Robert Greenstein, a public policy analyst at the Brookings Institution think tank, said Trump ultimately lost again, but the census report provides evidence that is relevant to the current debate over Biden’s $3.5 trillion social infrastructure plan.
“For those who take a cynical view that nothing works effectively, especially on the poverty front, that view will be hard to maintain,” said Greenstein, who focused on budget and policy priorities. Center founded, advocated on behalf of a non-profit organization. of low income people.
The Biden economic plan expands tax credits for families with children, seen as a strategy to reduce childhood poverty and its long-term consequences.