The Official Poverty Rate for African Americans Is the Lowest in History

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its annual report on poverty in the United States. Nearly 38 million Americans were poor, 11.5 percent of the total population.

The good news is that the official poverty rate for Black individuals decreased between 2021 and 2022. The 2022 rate was the lowest on record.

The bad news is that the supplemental poverty measure (SPM) rate in 2022 was 12.4 percent, an increase of 4.6 percentage points from 2021. This is the first increase in the overall SPM poverty rate since 2010. The SPM child poverty rate more than doubled, from 5.2 percent in 2021 to 12.4 percent in 2022. The large increase was in the SPM due to the end of many pandemic-related programs that expired.

The SPM extends the official poverty measure by accounting for several government programs that are designed to assist low-income families but are not included in official poverty measure calculations. The SPM also accounts for geographic variation in housing expenses when calculating the poverty thresholds and includes federal and state taxes, work expenses, and medical expenses. The SPM does not replace the official poverty measure; however, it does provide a different metric of economic well-being that includes resources from government programs and tax credits to low-income families.

In 2022, 17.1 percent of all African Americans were poor, the lowest percentage since the government began collecting poverty statistics. However, the Black poverty rate was still more than double to rate for non-Hispanic Whites.

In 2022, 22.3 percent of all Black children lived in poverty. Just under 10 percent of non-Hispanic White children were poor.

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