Many states saw declines in poverty rate in 2019, census data shows

The poverty rate in the United States declined for the sixth consecutive year in 2019, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau — a milestone that could be a brief one with the coronavirus pandemic damaging the economy for much of this year.

[READ: U.S. Median Income Hit Record in 2019, Census Data Shows]

The one-year estimates from the bureau’s latest American Community Survey show that the national poverty rate fell from 13.1% in 2018 to 12.3% last year — a decline that was tied for the largest since 2005. The poverty rate declined in nearly half of the states in 2019, and did not increase in a statistically significant way in any state last year.

It is difficult to predict what the data will look like a year from now, but it is hard to imagine it will paint a similarly bright picture of poverty levels in the country. Data for the 2019 American Community Survey was collected prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from the Census Bureau.

“This data can serve as a pre-crisis benchmark for future research,” said Donna Daily, chief of the American Community Survey office, in a written statement.

Many states, however, saw high poverty rates in 2019 that hadn’t changed much from 2018. Mississippi had the highest poverty rate last year, at 19.6%, with Louisiana not far behind at 19%. Both states were effectively static compared to 2018: Mississippi’s poverty rate fell just 0.1 percentage points and Louisiana’s rose by 0.4 percentage points, but the increase was within the margin of error.

Of the next three states with the highest poverty rates last year — New Mexico (18.2%), Kentucky (16.3%) and Arkansas (16.2%) — New Mexico saw the biggest decline compared to 2018, at 1.3 percentage points. Overall, eight states as well as Puerto Rico had poverty rates above 15% in 2019, and they were largely concentrated in the South.

The American Community Survey data shows racial disparities in poverty as well. More than 21% of Black or African American people and more than 17% of Hispanic or Latino people in the U.S. were below the poverty level in 2019, compared to about 10% of white people.

The news was largely positive elsewhere in the bureau’s data release. New Hampshire (7.3%), Utah (8.9%), Maryland (9%), Minnesota (9.0%) and New Jersey (9.2%) had the lowest poverty rates in 2019.

More from U.S. News

U.S. Median Income Hit Record in 2019, Census Data Shows

Washington Is Best State for COVID-Era Labor Protections, Oxfam Says

California Is the Most Diverse State in the U.S.

Many States Saw Declines in Poverty Rate in 2019, Census Data Shows originally appeared on

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up