Story at a glance
- The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the American economy and forced millions into unemployment.
- A recent study estimates that 7.8 million Americans fell into poverty this summer.
- Researchers have launched a new tool that estimates how many Americans are living below the federal poverty line each month.
Nearly 8 million Americans fell into poverty this summer, according to a new study assessing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the number of people living under the poverty line.
This is the largest jump in a single year going back 60 years to when the government first began tracking poverty, James X. Sullivan, a professor at Notre Dame and one of the authors of the study, told The Washington Post, and nearly double the next-largest rise during the oil crisis in 1979 and 1980.
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Early in the pandemic, the authors said, "the stimulus payments and expanded unemployment insurance changed what would have been an increase in poverty into a reduction." But the estimates have been rising since June this year, with at least 11.7 percent of Americans living in poverty this November. Another 30 percent of Americans are living off twice the federal poverty line, which is roughly $2,126 per month for one person and $4,366 for a family of 4.
Using data from the monthly Current Population Survey, the researchers have launched the COVID-19 Poverty Dashboard, which estimates the percentage of Americans below the federal poverty line, which is $12,760 for individuals and $26,200 for a family of 4, and multiples of the poverty line each month. But the study goes beyond income.
“The profound disruptions from the pandemic such as the closures of schools, stores, churches and other facilities, the uncertainty about future income streams, concerns about the health of family and friends, and other disruptions could lead to increases in hardship,” the authors said in the study.
Nearly twice as many Black Americans are living in poverty as white Americans, according to the study, which also shows that more women are under the poverty line than men. The dashboard also breaks down demographics by age and education, revealing that children and those with a high school education or less are especially at risk.
The numbers also vary from state to state, with those that issued state of emergency and stay-at-home orders earlier faring better than others. States with higher death rates, however, reported a lesser percentage of people living below the federal poverty line than those with lower death rates.
“There are two ways to counteract this upward trend in poverty: One is a dramatic improvement in the labor market. The other is more support from the federal government. Given the state of the virus, I wouldn’t bet on significant improvement in the labor market in the short run,” Sullivan told The Washington Post.
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