UW News

September 17, 2013

In spite of economic recovery, U.S. poverty rate remains high

News and Information

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that, for the second year in a row, the poverty rate for the U.S. remained stable at 15 percent in 2012. There were no statistically significant changes in the poverty rate by race, age, sex, nativity or disability status.

After falling for two straight years, median annual household income also held steady at $51,100 for 2012. Although the median annual income did not fall in 2012, it remains 8.3 percent below median income in 2007.

“Although the rate did not increase for 2012, poverty rates remain well above pre-recession levels,” said Jennifer Romich, director of the West Coast Poverty Center at the University of Washington and an associate professor of social work. “Before the last recession, the poverty rate was around 12 percent. It seems clear that the economic recovery has not yet reached the poor.”

The poverty threshold varies by age and family size. A family of two working-age adults and two children was considered poor if its annual income fell below $23,492. More than 46 million Americans were counted as poor in 2012. More than 40 percent of those (20.4 million Americans), had incomes below half of the relevant poverty threshold. An additional 14.7 million people were near-poor, with incomes between 100 and 125 percent of the relevant poverty threshold.

As has been the case for the past several decades, poverty is greatest among children (21.8 percent), compared with seniors (9.1 percent) and working-age adults (13.7 percent). Other subgroups that face relatively high poverty rates include blacks, people of Hispanic origin, non-citizens and individuals with disabilities.

The data released today give a preliminary view of regional variations in poverty. Poverty rates remained steady in the Northeast, Midwest and South. In the Western region there was a small but statistically significant decline in the poverty rate between 2011 and 2012 (down 0.7 percentage points to 15.1 percent).

The Census Bureau will release state-level estimates and estimates for large cities and counties on Thursday, followed by a report later in the fall that will include a more complete picture of income, expenses and the cost of living.


For more information, contact Marieka Klawitter at 206-616-1673 or marieka@uw.edu or Bob Plotnick at 206-685-2055 or plotnick@uw.edu.