The Real-Time Poverty Rate Rose To 11.7% In November


After falling between April and June thanks to stimulus checks, the poverty rate has increased every month since.


The Real-Time Poverty Estimates During the COVID-19 Pandemic  through November 2020 rose to 11.7% in November.

Key Details

  • The poverty rate fell by 1.5 percentage points from 10.9 percent in the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic (January and February) to 9.4 percent in the three months at the start of the pandemic (April, May, and June). 
  • Poverty rose by 2.4 percentage points from 9.3 percent in June to 11.7 percent in November, adding 7.8 million to the ranks of the poor. 
  • Poverty has risen each month since June, even though the unemployment rate has fallen by 40 percent (from 11.1 percent to 6.7 percent) over this period. Despite the decline early in the pandemic, poverty is now higher than it was at the start of the year. 
  • The entire decline in poverty through June can be accounted for by the one-time stimulus checks the federal government issued, predominantly in April and May, and the expansion of unemployment insurance eligibility and benefits. In absence of these programs, poverty would have risen sharply. 
  • The increase in poverty in recent months was more noticeable for blacks, children, and those  with a high school education or less. For blacks, poverty has risen by 3.1 percentage points since June. 
  • Poverty has also risen noticeably for those with a high school education or less, from 17.0 percent in June to 22.1 percent in November. 

Poverty Rate Trend

Poverty Rate Percent 2020-11


The Census Department sets the official Poverty Rate.

The number is very stale. The report was released on September 15, and the rate is as of the end of 2019.

  • The official poverty rate in 2019 was 10.5 percent, down 1.3 percentage points from 11.8 percent in 2018. This is the fifth consecutive annual decline in poverty. Since 2014, the poverty rate has fallen 4.3 percentage points, from 14.8 percent to 10.5 percent.
  • The 2019 poverty rate of 10.5 percent is the lowest rate observed since estimates were initially published in 1959.
  • In 2019, there were 34.0 million people in poverty, approximately 4.2 million fewer people than 2018.
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