Poverty rates declined for Black and Hispanic residents in 2019, Census Bureau reports

Despite the gains, rates of poverty for both groups remained well above the national average.

It’s a classic example of good-news, bad-news: The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that poverty rates for Black and Hispanic residents dipped last year to “historic lows,” but the bureau also reported persistent racial disparities.

Overall, the poverty rate for the United States was 10.5% in 2019, the lowest level since estimates were first released for 1959.

For Black and Hispanic residents, rates of poverty were significantly higher than the national average — at 18.8% and 15.7% respectively. The poverty rates for Asian and non-Hispanic White residents was 7.3%.

Despite the declining rates for Black and Hispanic residents, both groups were disproportionately represented among those in poverty.

In 2019, the share of Black residents in poverty was 1.8 times greater than their share among the general population. Black residents represented 13.2% of the total population in the United States, but 23.8% of the poverty population.

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The share of Hispanic residents in poverty was 1.5 times greater than their share in the general population.  Hispanic residents made up 18.7% of the total population in 2019, but 28.1% of the population in poverty.

In contrast, non-Hispanic Whites and Asians were under-represented in the poverty population.

Non-Hispanic Whites made up 59.9% of the total population but only 41.6% of the population in poverty. Asians made up 6.1% of the population and 4.3% of the population in poverty.

Those racial disparities were especially pronounced for children and elderly residents. 

Census figures show that the biggest drop in poverty happened among the nation’s Hispanic residents. One potential reason, the report said, is that since 2008, when the U.S. began emerging from the Great Recession, median family income has grown faster for Hispanic families than it has for Black families. 

In 2019, median household income for Black households was $45,438 compared to $56,113 for Hispanic households, $76,057 for non-Hispanic White households, and $98,174 for Asian households, the bureau reported.

Since 2008, median household income increased 14.1% for Black households, compared to 24.3% for Hispanic households, 11.1% for non-Hispanic White households, and 25.7% for Asian households, the bureau reported.

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