Three things about poverty and family structure

In the figure below, I have tried to show three important facts about the United States’ poverty situation.

1. The overall poverty rate — the top of the purple area — is back over 15%, erasing the gains against poverty made since the mid-1990s. That’s about 46 million people.

2. Five percent of the total population lives in poor families headed by single women — the red area. That is about 16 million people. That also erases most of the gains made since the 1990s.

3. Just over one-third of poor people live in families headed by single women.

The poverty rate among families headed by single mothers — which is not shown here — is very high, of course: 34% overall, 41% among Black families, 45% among Latina families. (Single-father families have a 15.8% poverty rate, unchanged in 2010.)

But poverty in the U.S. is not principally a problem of families headed by single mothers — they make up just a third of the poor population, down from a peak of 39% in the 1990s. And the news for this recession is that they account for only about one-quarter of the increase in poverty since 2006. This recession has increased poverty more in married couple families and people not in families.

The full poverty and income report is here.

7 thoughts on “Three things about poverty and family structure

  1. What jumps out at me is that poverty increased almost monotonically since 2000 — perhaps the biggest, headiest asset bubble in history.


  2. really, since the mid-2000s, which, not coincidentally, corresponds with the struggles of poor and working class families within the subprime mortgage and credit markets. The middle class, a year or two later, would contribute to this trend.

    great graph, by the way, especially for a comparison. i am working on some graphs, too. especially with the diverging trends in the aggregate share of family income to the top 5% and bottom 40% of families, and the same for households. Tax cuts in the 1980s and 1990s for the top earners did some damage to these trends, but not until the same time as evidenced above, the 2000s and Bush-era tax cuts, do the trends accelerate again.


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