By the Numbers: US Poverty

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US poverty (less than $19,090 for a family of three): 46.5 million people, 15 percent

Children in poverty: 16.4 million, 23 percent of all children, including 39.6 percent of African-American children and 33.7 percent of Latino children. Children are the poorest age group in the US

Deep poverty (less than $11,510 for a family of four): 20.4 million people, 1 in 15 Americans, including 7.1 million children

People who would have been in poverty if not for Social Security, 2012: 61.8 million (program kept 15.3 million people out of poverty)

People in the US experiencing poverty by age 65: Roughly half

Gender gap, 2012: Women 32 percent more likely to be poor than men

Gender gap, 2011: Women 34 percent more likely to be poor than men

Twice the poverty level (less than $46,042 for a family of four): 106 million people, more than 1 in 3 Americans

Jobs in the US paying less than $34,000 a year: 50 percent

Jobs in the US paying below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000 annually: 25 percent

Poverty-level wages, 2011: 28 percent of workers

Percentage of individuals and family members in poverty who either worked or lived with a working family member, 2011: 57 percent

Families receiving cash assistance, 1996: 68 for every 100 families living in poverty

Families receiving cash assistance, 2011: 27 for every 100 families living in poverty

Impact of public policy, 2010: Without government assistance, poverty would have been twice as high — nearly 30 percent of population

Percentage of entitlement benefits going to elderly, disabled or working households, 2010: Over 90 percent

Number of homeless children in US public schools: 1,168,354

Annual cost of child poverty nationwide: $500 billion

Federal expenditures on home ownership mortgage deductions, 2014 estimate: $101.5 billion

Federal funding for low-income housing assistance programs, 2012: Less than $50 billion

Unless otherwise noted, all figures are based on 2012 Census Data on poverty, the most recent released.

Greg Kaufmann is a frequent contributor to He is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, editor of, and producer of TalkPoverty Radio on SiriusXM Insight. You can follow him on Twitter @GregKaufmann.
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  • Fiona Mackenzie

    Thanks, Greg. And hugs for Bill Moyers.

  • Jill

    Those numbers are sobering.

  • novenator

    We can do better. America can do better than this.

  • florence

    Bad news. Very bad. What I don’t understand is why? So much aide going to other countries but our kids are without the basics. Maybe the Hollywooders would like to adopt some American kids too or maybe do some social work here; ya know, just to help out a bit?

  • Jim

    Thank god that idiot Romney and his teabagging mate Ryan were rejected at the polls. Social Security would be gone, and the poorest in this country would be even more.

  • Anonymous

    The trickle down economy! Hail the CEO! Let’s get rich people richer and no let them not pay taxes at all!

    Anything else would be socialism or communism? Hey, who needs food, shelter or health care – who needs education or jobs?

  • Anonymous

    You still have problems to recognize that policies of Democrats or Republicans would be the same!

    Give all your tax payer money to finance the thugs of Israel!

  • Anonymous

    In the Jew controlled US the definition of poverty is opportunity!

  • Michael Valentine

    Cutting food stamps while subsidizing Exxon is an act of Jesus hating commies.

  • Robert Adams

    This is not your dad’s America.

  • Anonymous

    For the same stats at two different time points, the changes represent things getting worse. In just one year, from 2010-2011, women went from 29% more likely to be poor than men, to 34% more likely. And, in 1996, 68/100 families in poverty got cash assistance. In 2010, that dropped to 27/100. How do those 73/100 other families manage and feed their children?

  • Darius Dpas Deepazz Smith

    NO ONE in America should be allowed to go hungry or be poor. No one.

  • John

    “People who would have been in poverty if not for Social Security, 2011: 67.6 million (program kept 21.4 million people out of poverty)” — seriously? The numbers speak for themselves, there’s no need to resort to slimy tactics like trying to make it sound like the impact of SS is 3 times larger than it is and only correcting yourself as a parenthetical afterthought. Pathetic.

  • John

    I would like to add that getting the numbers out is important, and I applaud your effort for that. Just that way you phrased that one data point left a bad taste in my mouth.

  • Becca Stareyes

    Checking the US budget tells me that foreign aid spending is about 6% of domestic welfare spending (and that’s only including direct payments and health insurance, not, say, education programs or urban renewal or tax reform… or things like Social Security that are not intended to relieve poverty but often serve as a major source of income for the elderly and disabled). Moreover, a lot of the countries getting a lot of money in aid were ones that had recent major problems rather than just ‘chronically poor': Haiti’s earthquake, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Just like I’d expect more money to go to, say Oklahoma than rural Nebraska for a year or two because there needs to be a large influx of money to provide people with streets and infrastructure to rebuild as well as deal with chronic problems like poverty.

    And actually from what I understand, adopting a healthy American baby has a supply and demand problem: there’s a lot more parents than babies, so asking Hollywood stars to do so is kind of pointless; those kids have their pick of homes without help. Getting adoptive parents to take an older kid or a disabled kid is a lot harder.

  • Anonymous

    The work that Greg Kaufmann does by shining a light on America poverty is invaluable. We’ve been subjected to an ongoing campaign against the poor (by govt/corporate media) since the late 1970s. It has been tremendously successful, eliminating such things as public empathy and compassion even from otherwise-progressive media.The result is that the average middle class American today is numbingly ignorant about poverty — and certainly about how our polices against the poor have been working so powerfully to phase out the middle class. We’re in desperate need of a legitimate national discussion about US poverty.

  • Anonymous

    What can we say about someone who went around preaching that we have a moral/spiritual duty to aid the poor, going to the leftist extreme of saying that it would be easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

  • Anonymous

    The bottom line is that so much of middle class America has been so grievously misinformed about poverty that they can no longer even think about it rationally. How can we explain a generation that believes, in defiance of all logic, that hellish deprivation (and the relentless anxiety/fear that comes with being poor in this culture) are merely a matter of “lifestyle choices”?

  • Anonymous

    But we have been undergoing a major crisis here, and the impact on the survivors is much the same as for those who survive earthquakes, tornados, etc. While the US was in the midst of shipping out a massive number of jobs — the very sort of jobs that had created the huge middle class we had between WWll and the 1980s — we decided to eliminate basic poverty relief, leaving an entire segment of the population with little or no means of getting by. We “got tough” on those who are left jobless, homeless, often becoming permanently unemployable. Meanwhile, we’ve been working for years to build an alternative (super-cheap) labor force, using workfare labor, prison labor and foreign labor to replace middle class wage earners, pushing more people into poverty. In the US today, people do, indeed, die as a result of poverty and the policies we chose. Also, the overall life expectancy of America’s poor has actually been falling since Clinton’s welfare “reform.” Whether losing everything because of a storm or because of job loss, the consequences can be the same.

  • Anonymous

    The data is overwhelming and yet the stories of these Americans are ignored by the MSM. Just since 2009 the top 7% saw an income increase of $5.66 Trillion, while the bottom 93% saw an income decrease of $850 B. Over the past thirty years the numbers are even more slanted; the fact is that money is being funneled UP to the wealthiest and our society and economy is being plundered. Consider this, the average American TWO income family of today is 15% poorer than the ONE income family of 1974. How can that be? All the productivity and economic gains of the information age’s massive computerization and nothing has ‘trickled down’? [Trickle down– the most disproven economic theory in history; treated as gospel by DC].
    Why? Our currency is controlled by a privately and anonymously owned corporation–the Federal Reserve Corporation. They print money when they want, they print how much they want, and they give it to whoever they want. If the gov wants to spend money, they have to ‘borrow’ it from this same company and pay interest. The POTUS is only allowed to appoint two members to their six member board, and he’s only allowed to select the nominees from a list given to him by… The Federal Reserve Corporation!
    ‘The borrower is slave to the lender’ –Psalms
    We all see it–a national election for POTUS with the major issue being the economy and not a mention of the private company’s endless money printing; with bailed out banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan being the major contributor to BOTH candidates.
    The Constitution allows the US Treasury to issue currency interest free. By controlling the money supply, this private company can make money in any market. The QE IV that we’re currently in has them printing $85 B/month indefinitely and giving the money to….? themselves, no strings attached [to buy assets that have real value, like real estate, gold, other banks, whatever they want]. In 2008, the FED Inc printed $16 Trillion IN SECRET and gave the money to….? again, whoever they wanted, including foreign banks. Inflation is a tax too, barely concealed. The more dollars in circulation, the less each is worth. Food prices increased 33% between Jan 2010 and Jan 2011; did your pay increase that much? Your investments? That is the Fed Inc. stealing wealth. End the Fed Inc and return the issuance of our currency to the US Treasury.

  • W

    This is not my America.

  • Jim

    Oklahoma is the Bible Belt, with Tulsa as the buckle. Let ’em pray for help. Maybe Rick Perry can give them some tips.

  • Anonymous

    Starting wars in foreign countries is not the same giving them aid. It is an effort to destroy and reshape them so that we can take their resources or some other strategic asset. Actual foreign aid (food, medicine, catastrophic emergency aid) is a tiny fraction on one percent of the annual US budget.

  • Anonymous

    We need to stop demonizing the poor and make sure everyone is aware of who the true demons are!

  • LDZenack

    These facts should be trumpeted by the Democratic Party. I do not understand, though, their tradition of poor communication skills. What is with that, anyway?
    Then, there is the Gang of 8 working on the Immigration Bill. The 4 Democratic members seem to have acquiesced to Hatch’s demand that additional thousands of foreign high tech workers be allowed temporary visas. Hey, that should help keep wages high in this country and provide jobs for the unemployed in that industry!!!
    So, it continues!

  • Anonymous

    Well, I guess President Johnson’s war on poverty, has been an abject failure. We now have millions of people, relying on government assistance, with no expectation or desire to take personal responsibility for themselves and their families. The Obama Administration has added 23 million people to the food stamp rolls. With a $17 Trillion national debt and fully 50% of the american people paying no federal income tax, this situation, is unsustainable.

  • Anonymous

    And we have a community organizer posing as our president, with too many scandals to count. The re-election of Obama showed how stupid the American people are. Offer entitlements and you will get their vote. Wait until obamacare really kicks in, and watch the fur fly.

  • Arthur Brooks

    Or, without a roof over his head.

  • Arthur Brooks

    I receive less than $700.00 monthly from Social Security. Sometimes according to the wealth of the economy I get a $10.00 a month bump once yearly. Hard to keep up with the Jones`s or needs.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, sojourner. Good summary of the problem and the solution. I wonder if Kaufmann read it. I wonder if he knows about and understands money is debt in our debt based monetary system. I wonder if he understands the history of money and banking. If not, his job of covering poverty in America is just reporting on the devastation resulting from our monetary system rather than reporting on causes and solutions. I wonder if Bill Moyers knows. I’ve never heard him interview anyone who has researched and published on this issue, like Ellen Brown or Bill Still. I ended up on this site searching for “bill moyers ‘end the fed'”. The current government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis reminds me of the parable about the man with his arms wrapped around a big tree yelling at the tree for it to let him go. The solution is so simple – it would just take an informed citizenry. As Henry Ford said, “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

  • Diana Reichardt

    It is pretty depressing. Our country has really fallen. The government needs to set a mandatory, realistic minimum wage so the people of this country has a chance.

  • Robert H. Pike

    And here’s the main reason for this situation; f20-inco-480.png

  • Anonymous

    LBJ’s war on poverty in the mid 60s was to make a big dent in poverty.. Since then we have spent trillions upon trillions on poverty with the % remaining about the same. Might we just be creating folks more dependent on govt rather than a job?? I wonder

  • GregoryC

    As Obama works on trade deals giving corporations more wealth, more power, deregulation of industries, setting up a global Investor-State Dispute Settlement tribunal allowing corporations to sue governments (taxpayers) for potential, not actual, loss of profit. No oversight. No accountability. No chance of appeal. Tribunals will be above sovereign nations’ highest courts, including the US Supreme Court.

  • GregoryC

    The US has murdered millions of innocent people globally, supporting dictators, tyrants, as long as they allow the US government and corporations to extract, loot, natural resources for profit. Zinn and Blum have written of such.

  • GregoryC

    Not with the two wings of the corporate money party controlling politics, economics, privatizing social services and infrastructure. Gore Vidal referred to the Democrats and the Republicans as two wings of the property party.

  • GregoryC

    Some “recovery”.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to see a serious study by anyone of the serious Think Tanks out there on contemporary corporate economics and the affects on employee salaries.

    I’ve been wondering about the history of the stock market and investment institutions in America and the connection to a company’s health (the long term viability and employee compensation). It just seems like the original concept of stocks and investor relations were designed to provide companies with the necessary capital to expand, compete and grow, while providing investors a decent return on investment. Yet it seems like since the creation of “questionable” financial instruments during the 80’s, Wall Street and the entire investment sector isn’t about corporate health, but a means to generate massive profits for those who have no interest in the well being of the companies they invest in; in fact many of these instruments are designed so that investors profit when these companies fail and are designed to fail. Perfect examples are consulting firms like Bain capital and the recent trend of activist hedge fund managers like Daniel Loeb, whose sole interests are maximizing the return to investors and not the long term health of the companies.

    If you sit on any investor relations call today, whenever you hear the topic of employee compensation or head count (the reduction of) it is usually in relation to increased productivity, increased profitability and increased return on investment. Yet, typically if you look at the monies saved by decreasing head count and reduction of employee benefits it correlates to increases in executive compensation, dividends back to investors or cash hordes in tax shelters.

    It just seems like in today’s over valuation, pump and dump investor mentality, the concept of corporations paying a living wage and covering essential benefits (which I think should be in hands the individual anyway) is low on their priority list.

  • Joe C.

    Because you can’t get a good paying job unless you have some kind of trade or college education.

  • Middle Molly

    Sorry.. not enough time right now to read your whole comment, but I do believe that these stock market instruments, derivatives, and what not, have turned our whole economy into a casino.

  • Krista Estrella

    Vote for the Green Party as a protest vote to HIllary.

  • Jim

    I wish the Greens had more of a chance. The duopoly we’re faced with now is frustrating, to say the least.

  • Anonymous

    And a college education is no guarantee of a good job.

  • Anonymous

    34nelson the answer is no we are not. That right wing canard about the moochers who are dependent on government is about as real as the fantasy that “trickledown” economics works.

    The facts are that every thing that LBJ did has been slowly torn down by the capitalists.

  • Thirdcloud

    Concerned 50–Constitutional? The question seems to miss the point. I would ask whether it is legal when self interests compromise the interests of the greater public. These conflicts of interest will never be resolved by the political class on their own because they have no intention of subordinating their self-interests to the people who elected them. In short, we get the democracy we demand.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you –

  • Anonymous

    Can anyone verify or dispute this information for me?

    There are far too many poor people in this country. That being said these numbers are inflated as they do not account for unwed mothers who have live in boyfriends who do work but because they are not legally married their income is not counted as part of the families overall income.