Poverty: No one should experience poverty or economic insecurity. 

Insights & Analyses

  • While poverty rates remained flat or even declined for all racial and ethnic groups in the US from 1980-2000, these rates have increased since 2000 across the board.

  • Native American and Black populations have experienced poverty at the highest rate compared to all other racial and ethnic groups in the US since 1980. White populations have continued to experience the lowest poverty rates. 

  • People of color experience the highest rates of poverty in states such with large Native American and Black populations, such as South Dakota and Mississippi.

  • Cities in more rural, White regions such as Cleveland and Buffalo, have the highest percentage of people of color living in poverty. Cities in states with large populations of color, like Fremont and Plano, have the lowest percentage.

Drivers of Inequity

Poverty remains high in the United States because of various trends including wage stagnation among lower paying jobs, cutbacks in social protection programs, and deindustrialization. People of color, particularly Latinx and Black Americans, continue to suffer from poverty at much higher rates than White Americans. This disparity is caused by various historical factors such as racial segregation and policies that banned people of color from accessing education and higher paid professions. Ongoing factors, like decades of disinvestment in infrastructure and social programs, discriminatory hiring practices and disparities in generational wealth, also contribute to poverty.

Strategies

Grow an equitable economy: Policies to lift people out of poverty

Strategy in Action

Seattle raises wages for thousands of workers. Seattle was the first major city in the nation to adopt a $15/hour minimum wage. The advocacy effort started in neighboring SeaTac, home to Seattle's airport. As airline companies began to pay workers as contractors, causing wages to decline dramatically, a local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) chapter led a successful ballot initiative campaign to increase the minimum wage for airport-related jobs to $15/hour. This policy shift built momentum to expand the minimum wage increase to the whole city. As of January 1, 2020, Seattle's minimum wage will be $16.39/hour for large employers (501 or more employees) and $15.75/hour for smaller employers who do not pay toward individual employee's medical benefits. Despite initial pushback from the restaurant industry, the number of jobs in restaurants and bars has continued to grow since the wage increase. Lower-wage workers have seen significantly more rapid hourly wage growth while remaining in the jobs longer, leading to lower labor turnover rates overall. Read more.

Related Indicators