The Census released the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS-ASEC) earlier this month. The CPS-ASEC provides the most widely cited information about income, poverty, and health insurance in the United States.
The headline from the report is that the expiration of the one-year pandemic-era Child Tax Credit and the lack of one-off stimulus payments resulted in child poverty being much higher in 2022 than 2021. This headline is certainly true, though some of the specific numbers involved may not be totally accurate because the CPS-ASEC does a poor job of accurately estimating the uptake of tax credit benefits.
Nonetheless, below, I use the microdata files that the Census puts out to produce some figures about who made up the poor in 2021 and 2022.
The most dramatic change from 2021 to 2022 was with children. In this data, the number of impoverished children jumped from 3.8 million to 8.9 million. But we see poverty rose in all eight groups, including quite dramatically among the fully employed, defined here as people who worked fifty-two weeks during the year. The number of fully employed people who were poor nearly doubled from 2.8 million to 5.3 million.
When you break down what percent of all poor people come from each category, you get the following graphs for 2021 and then 2022.
In both years, the CEDS block — children, elderly, disabled, and students — made up right around two-thirds of all poor people.
As 2021 shows, dramatically reducing the level of poverty is not a technically challenging problem. Increasing the generosity and reach of the benefit programs for nonworking population groups can get the job done quickly even in an emergency situation and even in a country with very poor administrative capacity. Poverty lingers only because lawmakers do not care to reduce it any further.
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