United States Statistics

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General Economic Statistics in the United States

Poverty Statistics in the United States

In the year 2010 the poverty rate in the United States was 15.1%, there were approximately 46.2 million people living under the poverty threshold [1]. This has increased from 14.3% in 2009, approximately 43.6 million people. There has been disproportionate variation in poverty rate among different ethnic groups between the years 2009 and 2010 [1]. The poverty rate for Blacks raised from 25.8% to 27.4%, the poverty rate for Hispanics rose from 25.3% to 26.6%, whereas the poverty rate for Whites rose from 9.4% to 9.9%, And the Asian ethnic group saw no change in poverty rate at 12.1% [1]. About 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $22,050 a year for a family of four. [2]

Table of Racial Groups and Poverty Rate (2009, 2010):

Poverty Composition By Race (2009) [1]
Racial Group Total Individuals in Racial Group Individuals in poverty Percent of Racial Group in poverty
White 197,164,000 29,830,000 12.3
Black 38,556,000 9,944,000 25.8
Asian 14,005,000 1,746,000 12.5
Hispanic 48,881,000 12,350,000 25.3
Poverty Composition By Race (2010) [1]
Racial Group Total Individuals in Racial Group Individuals in poverty Percent of Racial Group in poverty
White 197,203,000 19,599,000 9.9
Black 38,965,000 10,675,000 27.4
Asian 14,324,000 1,729,000 12.1
Hispanic 49,869,000 13,243,000 26.6

Poverty rates differ over age cohorts as well. The poverty rate for those under the age of 18 rose from 20.7% to 22% from 2009 to 2010 [1]. For those ages 18-65 the poverty rate rose from 12.9% to 13.7%. The over 65 age group saw no significant changes at a rate of 9% [1].

Table of Age Cohorts and Poverty Rate (2009-2010):

Poverty Composition By Age (2009) [1]
Age Group Total Individuals in Age Group Age Group Individuals in poverty Percent of Age Group in poverty
18 & Under 74,579,000 15,451,000 20.7
18 to 24 29,313,000 6,071,000 20.7
25 to 34 41,085,000 6,123,000 14.9
35 to 44 40,447,000 4,756,000 11.8
45 to 54 44,387,000 4,421,000 10.0
55 to 59 19,172,000 1,792,000 9.3
60 to 64 16,223,000 1,520,000 9.4
65 & Above 38,613,000 3,433,000 8.9
Poverty Composition By Age (2010) [1]
Age Group Total Individuals in Age Group Age Group Individuals in poverty Percent of Age Group in poverty
18 & Under 74,494,000 16,401,000 22.0
18 to 24 29,651,000 6,507,000 21.9
25 to 34 41,584,000 6,333,000 15.2
35 to 44 39,842,000 5,028,000 12.6
45 to 54 43,954,000 4,662,000 10.6
55 to 59 19,554,000 1,972,000 10.1
60 to 64 17,430,000 1,755,000 10.1
65 & Above 39,179,000 3,520,000 9.0

Inequality Statistics in the United States

Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases data on the income levels of America’s households. A comparison of the annual data over time reveals that the income of wealthier households has been growing faster than the income of poorer households—the real income of the wealthiest 5 percent of households rose by 14 percent between 1996 and 2006, while the income of the poorest 20 percent of households rose by just 6 percent.

As a result of these differences in income growth, the income of the wealthiest 5 percent of households grew from 8.1 times that of the income of the poorest 20 percent of households in 1996 to 8.7 times as great by 2006. Such figures commonly lead to the conclusion that income inequality in the United States has increased. This apparent increase in income inequality has not escaped the attention of policy makers and social activists who support public policies aimed at reducing income inequality. However, the common measures of income inequality that are derived from the census statistics exaggerate the degree of income inequality in the United States in several ways. Furthermore, although many people consider income inequality a social ill, it is important to understand that income inequality has many economic benefits and is the result of—and not a detriment to—a well-functioning economy. [3]

"In 2010, 15.1 percent of all persons lived in poverty. The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest poverty rate since 1993. Between 1993 and 2000, the poverty rate fell each year, reaching 11.3 percent in 2000." [4] The above statistic measures U.S. poverty based on the table of 2010 Poverty Thresholds established by the U.S. Bureau of Census. However, it should be noted that the U.S. has made progress to decrease poverty, but is still subjected to the economy itself. The U.S. economy took a hit recently, resulting in increase in job losses, pay-cuts, and record low unemployment rates, therefore the 2010 percent of people living in poverty can be justified. It should be interesting to see how economic changes within the next few years will affect poverty statistics in the U.S.

Other Evidence of Poverty in the US

Another 2.6 million people have joined poverty last year. Compared to other countries the average citizen in the US is far better off than citizens all over the world. Most Americans are proud of our economic system believing that it gives opportunity for all to have a good life. In 1998 a family of four with an average income of less than $16,350 was considered to be living in poverty. The percentage of people in poverty has been declining; 22.5 percent in 1959, 11.4 percent in 1978 and last year it’s been the highest level since 1993 at 15.1 percent. But then again the poverty line has increased to $22,314 in 2010 for family of four. Inequality in the US has grown in the past decade. If we broke down the entire population’s income into quintiles, 50 percent of the GDP produced is by less than 20% of the population. Breaking it down into race, minorities always seem to have the higher poverty rate. Blacks at 27 percent, Hispanics at 26 percent, Asians at 12.1 percent and whites at only 9.9 percent lived in poverty. Joblessness is the main thing pushing Americans into Poverty, more recently President Obama has tried to pass job bills in order to reduce the amount of Americans in poverty.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf Denavas-Walt, Carmen, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith. U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010." Accessed April 21, 2012.
  2. http://nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html
  3. http://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/itv/articles/?id=1920
  4. http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14census.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all Tavernise, Sabrina. "Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on ‘Lost Decade’." The New York Times. 13 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

Garrett, Thomas A. "Publications." U.S. Income Inequality: It's Not So Bad. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/itv/articles/?id=1920>.

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