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Poverty rate fell in 2020 thanks to government assistance: NPR


People shop in downtown Brooklyn in May in New York City. The poverty rate fell in 2020, according to the Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images


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Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Poverty rate fell in 2020 thanks to government assistance: NPR

People shop in downtown Brooklyn in May in New York City. The poverty rate fell in 2020, according to the Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The poverty rate in the United States fell last year, even amid the impact of the global pandemic, due to government assistance, including stimulus payments and unemployment insurance. That’s according to the Census Bureau’s Supplementary Poverty Measure, released today.

The rate of the supplemental poverty measure in 2020 was 9.1%, which is 2.6 percentage points lower than the MPS rate in 2019.

Stimulus payments lifted 11.7 million people out of poverty, according to census data, and unemployment insurance benefits kept 5.5 million people from falling into poverty.

The official poverty rate was 11.4 percent, up 1.0 percentage point from 2019. But that official rate doesn’t include many types of government aid, including stimulus checks, though. that it include unemployment insurance.

The Supplementary Poverty Measure, or SPM, also incorporates regional differences in the costs of housing, food, and utilities. It reflects after-tax income and serves as an alternative measure of poverty and economic well-being.

“I think this really shows the importance of the social safety net,” said Liana Fox, head of the poverty statistics branch, at the census social, economic and housing statistics division. “When we see the trend differences with the official poverty rate and the SPM… that’s really the impact of our tax system, it’s the impact of our non-cash benefits.”

Median household income fell 2.9% last year, from $ 69,560 in 2019 to $ 67,521 in 2020. Incomes in the Midwest, South and West were hit the hardest.