US Poverty – 1960’s levels

The number of people in the US who are in poverty is approaching the levels of the 1960’s. The anticipated poverty rate is expected to increase to 15% from 13.2% which means that 45 million people in the US were poor – this is more than 1 in 7.

The most common measure of poverty in the United States is the “poverty threshold” set by the U.S. government. This measure recognizes poverty as a lack of those goods and services commonly taken for granted by members of mainstream society. The official threshold is adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index. In 2008, the poverty level stood at US$22,025 (NZ$30,174) for a family of four, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income before tax deductions. Wikipedia

Analysts suggest that the upcoming report on poverty will show:

* Child poverty increased from 19 per cent to more than 20 per cent.
* Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately hit, based on their higher rates of unemployment.
* Metropolitan areas that posted the largest gains in poverty included Modesto, California; Detroit; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida; Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

From the graph below:
Highest poverty rate – 1959 = 22.4%
Lowest poverty rate – 1973 = 11.1%*

*this was as a consequence of President Johnson’s war on poverty.

5 thoughts on “US Poverty – 1960’s levels

  1. Jean

    Mark, as regards those areas of greatest increase in poverty…what relation exists between the percentages–vs.–industry ‘downsizing?’ For example…DETROIT, MODESTO, and LAS VEGAS? Unemployment rates by industry have grown quite a lot in those places?

    1. Mark Post author

      Hi Jean good point – Detroit would have been severely it especially as it was a big sub-prime area. Here is a cool graphic from the Washington Post with unemployment rates by county. Interesting to see the unemployment rates in some areas.

  2. Meri

    This is interesting–concise and to the point.
    I’d thought of the 60s as a prosperous time in US history. Was the poverty of the 60s mostly along racial lines? I’ve read that the poverty threshold as computed by the US govt isn’t accurate as all the facts and figures used to determine it haven’t been completely updated since the 60s. This means the real poverty rate may be much higher. I’d also read that while the poverty rate for all Americans (per the govt) is close to 13% in the US, the poverty rate for African-Americans is about 25%.

  3. Mark Post author

    Thanks for your comment. I think this is a worldwide situation where in developed countries there is a smaller middle class and a lot more below the poverty threshold. I see it happening here in New Zealand – the middle class are getting squeezed and poverty levels are increasing.

  4. adrian bailey

    Yes, it is happening in all developed countries. Fluctuations in the graph above twelve per cent or so bring the issue of poverty into the open – for instance in the UK thousands of working families rely on food handouts from charity. Middle class squeeze is being felt and represented. As the comments suggest, different sectors of polulations are affected differently. One thing that seems to go by the by is the lowest income sector which is rarely represented as it is ongoing and seems structurally built into western economies.


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