U.S. Poverty Numbers Continue to Decline, Researchers Find

A more accurate measure of the poverty rate, based on how much people consume, highlights the dramatic decline in poverty over the past four decades, a fact that is missed by the official government poverty numbers. This can be visualized in a new poverty dashboard developed by professors James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame and Bruce Meyer of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. The online tool compares data over the past 50 years from their pioneering new poverty measure as well as poverty figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The dashboard shows that between 1980 and 2017, the share of people consuming less than the standard of living of the 1980 official government poverty level fell from 13.0 to 2.8 percent, while the official poverty rate fell to only 12.3 percent over that period. This year’s figures show that 0.2 percentage points of that decline in consumption poverty occurred between 2016 and 2017.

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November 1, 2018

Health and SocietyCollege of Arts and LettersDigest202DiversityEconomicsJames SullivanPovertyResearchService