11 Thought-Provoking US Poverty Statistics
Updated · Aug 31, 2022
Every country in the world has to deal with poverty—even the United States. And, as you’ll find out by the end of this article, it’s not something that affects everyone equally.
Race, age, gender, ethnicity, education level, and even the place where people live are all relevant factors that influence the likelihood of someone being born into poverty—or falling into it later in life.
Poverty statistics in the US tell different stories, and we’ll share some of those here with you.
Must-Know Poverty Facts in America (Editor’s Choice)
- At least 37.2 million people in the US live in poverty.
- Nearly 16 million White Americans are poor.
- Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be poor than White people.
- One in six US children are poor—that’s about 11.6 million children living in poverty.
- The country’s poverty rate is 11.4%.
- Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the country (19.6%).
- New Hampshire, on the other hand, has the lowest poverty rate (7.3%)
US Poverty Statistics in 2022
We all have at least a basic understanding of what poverty is—to have little or not-enough money. But not enough for what, specifically? How much money is “little money”? Does it all come down to finances?
The answer to the last one is a definite “no,” but the other two questions are tricky. Ironic as it may seem, it depends on how you define poverty.
Read the following stats to see what we mean.
1. The poverty rate in the United States is 11.4%.
(Source: USA Facts)
Historical poverty stats in America show that the number of people living below the official threshold have been fairly constant over time. From 1966 to 2020 (the latest official census), the poverty rates have remained firmly within the 11%-15% interval.
Whether or not this is a good thing is, of course, debatable. Arguably, it’s been nearly half a century, and the United States hasn’t managed to significantly lower its poverty rate. But, then again, poverty is an extremely complex issue that’s yet to be solved anywhere in the world.
So, officially, how many people live in poverty in the US?
As of 2020, 37.2 million people in total. In other words, about one in ten citizens lives in poverty.
2. As of 2022, the poverty line falls at $13,590 for a single person.
(Source: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)
In the US, the poverty threshold for an individual—that is, the minimum annual income one should have in order to afford the bare necessities—is $13,590.
Now, this number goes up as the number of household members increases. For instance, the poverty threshold for a family of two is $18,310, and it’s $23,030 for a household of three.
The thing is that this measurement is good for getting government statistics on poverty but, otherwise, it’s flawed, as it only takes into account a family’s income and the minimum cost for a “healthy” diet. It fails to consider other basic expenses (such as clothing, transport, utilities, etc.) or geographical variations across the country (taxes, cost of living, etc.) that also impact a family’s finances.
In other words, people can be above the poverty line and still not have enough money to cover day-to-day expenses.
Interesting fact: China’s official poverty line sits at $2.30 per day. This means that—officially—only 0.6% of people in the country are poor. But that threshold is really low. If we bump it up to $5.50 a day, low income stats show that 24% of the Chinese population live in less desirable circumstances. That’s quite the change.
3. The US has one of the highest poverty gaps among OECD countries.
(Source: Confronting Poverty)
If we were to calculate the average earnings of all the people in the country who live below the poverty line and then compare that figure to the actual poverty threshold, we’d get the poverty gap. So, the poverty gap shows us a clearer picture of poverty in the USA by telling us how poor people actually are.
In 2019, the United States had a 39.8% poverty gap. In other words, the average poor person in the country made around $7,500 a year.
For comparison, the poverty gaps in Belgium, Sweden, Finland, and France fall at around 21%-23%. In fact, Italy is the only OECD country with a higher rate than the US, coming at 40.8%.
US Poverty Statistics by State
Although we can talk about poverty in the United States in general terms, the truth is that the statistics vary quite a bit across regions, states, and even cities.
So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
4. New Hampshire has the lowest rate of poverty in America (7.3%).
(Source: World Population Review)
As of 2019, only 11 states in the country boasted poverty rates below 10%. And, if we wanted to narrow it down further, only four states manage 9% or less: New Hampshire (7.3%), Utah (8.9%), Minnesota (9%), and Maryland (9%).
On the other side of the spectrum sit the poorest US states: Mississippi (19.6%), Louisiana (19%), New Mexico (18.2%), Kentucky (16.3%), and Arkansas (16.2%).
Interesting fact: Mississippi is the state with the lowest median household income ($46,511) but New Hampshire is not the one with the highest. In fact, the Northeastern state takes the seventh spot on the list ($77,923), falling nearly $10,000 short from the highest ranking state—Maryland.
5. More than 160,000 people in California don’t have a home.
(Source: World Population Review)
It’s safe to say that homelessness is the extreme side of poverty. As it is, more than half a million people in the US don’t have a home, and about a fifth of them are located in California. This makes it the state with the largest homeless population in America.
New York (91,271), Florida (27,487), Texas (27,229), and Washington (22,923) follow. In other words, these five states account for roughly 60% of the homeless folk.
6. Laredo, Texas has the highest concentrated poverty rate in the country.
(Source: USA Today)
As you may expect, certain cities have more pronounced poverty rates than others. Take Laredo, for instance. Statistics about poverty in the US show that the city’s poverty rate is twice as high as Texas’ (30.1% vs 15.3%). Furthermore, more than half (52.3%) of those 30.1% live in poor neighborhoods.
Albany (GA) and Fresno (CA) follow behind Laredo, with concentrated poverty rates of 38.2% and 33.2%, respectively.
Interestingly enough, although Laredo has significantly higher poverty rates than the other two cities, it’s the one with the lowest unemployment rates out of the three. About 7% of the people who live in Laredo’s poor neighborhoods don’t have a job, compared to 14.5% of those in Fresno and 21.4% of those in Albany.
US Poverty Demographics
Much like poverty statistics vary across different states, they also vary across different demographic groups.
Let’s see what poverty rates look like across race, age, and gender.
7. 12.6% of women in the US live below the poverty threshold.
(Source: WIA Report)
For comparison, 10.2% of men do so, too. The gender disparity might not seem like much here, but take a look at the following poverty facts and stats:
- 2.3 million more females than males live in severe poverty—i.e., they have a household income that’s less than half of the poverty threshold.
- Single-parent households that rely on a woman’s income are more likely to be poor than those that rely on a man’s income (23.4% vs 11.4%).
- Twice as many men than women earn 100,000+ a year (19.5 million workers vs 9.2 million).
Interesting poverty facts in America: When analyzing income disparity by gender, you’ll realize that age plays an important factor. For instance, females in the 18-24 age range have the highest poverty rate (16.7%) but males are at their most vulnerable when they’re underage (15.7%).
However, the biggest gap in poverty rates comes at 25-34 years old (13.5% vs 7.5%) and at 75+ (12.1% vs 7.4%). In other words, women in reproductive age and elderly ladies are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to have a low income.
8. 4% of adults who live in poverty have college degrees.
(Source: The Balance)
According to the most recent US poverty statistics, 25% of poor people in America never finished high school. In addition, 13.2% of poor people in the US have a high-school diploma, and 8.4% attended college without obtaining a degree.
Although numerous highly-educated individuals don’t have enough money to get by, most of them are fairly well off. So, we could say that education acts as a “shield” against financial instability.
9. 8.2% of White people in the US don’t have enough money to get by.
In general terms, White people have below-average rates of impoverishment. As it is, the only other racial group that fares better are Asians, who have a 8.1% poverty rate.
Discrimination and racism continue to affect Black poverty rates in 2022. The reasons are complex, stemming from decades of inequality and leading to 19.5% of the Black population in the country to live below the line of poverty.
As for Hispanics, the largest ethnic minority in the country, they have a 17% poverty rate.
10. One in every four Native Americans live in poverty.
Poverty and race in the US seem to be inextricably linked. Astounding as it may be, Black people aren’t the racial group with the most critical poverty rates. As of 2020, 25.4% of the Native American population lives in poverty.
Currently, there are around 4.5 million Native Americans living in the country, which means more than one million of them live below the poverty line.
Interesting facts about poverty in America: Although the states with the largest concentration of this racial group are Alaska (20%) and Oklahoma (14%), it’s South Dakota who has the highest poverty rate for its Native American residents (49%).
11. 11.6 million children are living in poverty in the US.
In other words, 16% of all children in the country don’t have as much as they need. But let’s dive deeper into it.
If we look at children’s poverty in the US in terms of race and ethnicity, we can see similar disparities as in the previous stats: Black, Native American, and Hispanic children have the highest poverty rates (28%, 25%, and 23%, respectively). White and Asian children, on the other hand, seem to be less at risk, with a 9%-10% poverty rate.
Appaling fact: According to hunger statistics in America, 12 million US children are food insecure—i.e., they don’t have access to enough good, healthy food. This is, of course, terrible in and of itself, but it becomes even worse when you know that 30%-40% of the food in the country goes to waste.
Poverty is a grim and thought-provoking topic, and raising awareness will only help in resolving it in the future.
We at Web Tribunal would say that the most important takeaway from these US poverty statistics is that there are no straightforward explanations or solutions—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep on trying to make the world a safer, healthier, and happier place for everybody.
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