So, are you telling me that poverty went up AND poverty went down between 2019 and 2020? I’ve been asked this more than once since the Census release this morning. And, the answer is yes. Here’s how this is possible.
Let's start with the facts:
- According to the official poverty measure, the official poverty rate in 2020 was 11.4%, up 1.0 percentage point from 2019.
- According to the supplemental poverty measure, the SPM poverty rate in 2020 was 9.1%, down 2.6 percentage point from 2019.
So, what’s the difference? The SPM extends what is included in people’s income such as many government programs that are not included in the official poverty measure. In doing so, the SPM allows us to better analyze the effects of these programs on poverty estimates.
Specifically, the SPM includes the stimulus payments provided as relief to families during the pandemic. These stimulus payments were important for reducing poverty: 11.7 million more would be in poverty in 2020 without them.
Were these stimulus payment not included in people's resources in the supplemental poverty measure, then the SPM poverty rate would have been 12.7% rather than 9.1%. This is a huge result.
Mechanically, if the supplemental poverty rate was 12.7% (had it not been for the government intervention), then the SPM poverty rate would have gone up from 11.8% in 2019 to 12.7% in 2020, a similar amount that the official poverty measure increased.
Unemployment insurance benefits, however, are included in both the official and supplemental measurement of poverty. Without UI, the official poverty rate would have been significantly higher. Without UI, 5.5 million more people would have been below the SPM poverty threshold.
These two poverty measures are both telling the truth. The official poverty measure tells an incomplete story of what people actually experienced in 2020 because it captures only some, but not all, of the important policy changes that measurably improved people’s lives.

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More from @eliselgould

14 Sep
The 2020 Census report highlights the costs of the pandemic and benefits of early policy safety net measures.
Key takeaways:
- median household income down
- full time earnings up
- stimulus payments and UI very effective at reducing poverty for millions…
The Census report on income, poverty, and health insurance for 2020 provide insights into the effects of the pandemic on earnings and incomes as well as the vital measures put in place to reduce economic insecurity during the steep economic downturn.…
Median household income fell 2.9% as millions lost their jobs and poverty rose by 1.0 percentage point. The losses to income and increases in poverty would have been far worse if not for the rapid and large boosts to vital safety net programs legislated by Congress in 2020.
Read 20 tweets
9 Aug
The latest #JOLTS report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a notable uptick in hires and the hires rate, up nearly 700k and 0.4 percentage points between May and June while layoffs continue to trend down. Altogether a promising sign for an economy continuing to recover.
The uptick in the quits rate is notable, likely due in part to increased opportunities for workers to find better job matches, potentially with higher wages or safer working conditions in the lingering pandemic (which had not worsening as much during the June reference period).
Using the last three months of data by sector to smooth data volatility, it's clear that there are still many sectors with more unemployed workers than job openings. To be clear, these comparisons only include those who are in the official measure of unemployment.
Read 6 tweets
4 Jun
Today's jobs report is a promising sign that the recovery is on track. The labor market added 559,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8%.

+559k jobs in May is slightly better than the average growth of the prior 3 months. If this pace continues over the next year, we will likely get down to 4% unemployment by mid-2022 and will be fully recovered before the end of 2022, fully absorbing losses plus population growth.
Employment in leisure and hospitality continues to record strong improvements, gaining 292k in May on top of 328k in April, and 227k in March.

Read 12 tweets
2 Jun
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated underlying disparities in the health and economic wellbeing of people across the country. Segregated cities and neighborhoods have devastated many—disproportionately Black and Hispanic communities—others less so.
Some families have seen multiple family members and friends become seriously ill or lose their jobs, while others have come away relatively unscathed (and in some cases, prospered).
See @LarryMishel+@joriskywalker's latest on the growth in CEO pay:…
Millions of workers have risked their health and the health of their families by going to work in-person, while others have been able to work from home and don’t regularly encounter those facing the pandemic’s wrath.
Read 20 tweets
2 Jun
New paper alert from @EconomicPolicy using the latest CPS data on telework, co-authored w/ @joriskywalker.

As of April 2021, only 1 in 5 workers (18.3%) worked from home due to COVID. Black and Hispanic workers are less likely to be able to telework.
At the beginning of the pandemic, @hshierholz and I showed that not everybody can work from home, with the ability to telework differing enormously by race and ethnicity.…
When we look over the pandemic yea, large disparities remain: only one in six Hispanic workers (15.2%) and one in five Black workers (20.4%) are able to telework due to COVID, contrasted with one in four white workers (25.9%) and two in five AAPI workers (39.2%).
3/n Image
Read 6 tweets
9 Dec 20
Today's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey report says "little changed" 16 times. This is not a labor market speeding towards recovery.…
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey continues to show weaker levels of hires than before the recession hit.
Any hope for a quick recovery is off the table unless Congress acts now.…
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of the middle of November, the economy was still 9.8 million jobs below where it was in February and job growth slowed considerably in November.…
Read 10 tweets

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