Last week’s news that the official U.S. poverty rate fell for the first time in seven years to 14.5% from 15% was greeted lukewarmly—and for good reason.
The poverty rate remains well above its prerecession level of 12.5% in 2007. Also, most economists quibble with how the rate is calculated.
(To address this, Census also releases a more comprehensive “supplemental” poverty measure, one that accounts for things such as antipoverty programs and regional differences in housing costs. This supplemental measure was stuck at 16% in 2012, and a new reading comes in mid-October.)
But one more major reason to downplay last week’s news was that improvements weren’t broadly felt. Hispanics were the only major racial or ethnic group to see poverty decline, experts at the Pew Research Center note.
Poverty among Hispanics—who comprise about 17% of the U.S. population—fell from 25.6% in 2012 to 23.5% in 2013 as this group’s median income rose an inflation-adjusted 3.5%. That allowed the overall U.S. poverty rate to decline.
While poverty reduction among Hispanics is good news, it’s notable that no other major racial or ethnic group saw a statistically significant drop.
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