Poverty in The United States

The Administration recently suggested that ‘ “Anybody who says we are not absolutely better off today than we were just seven years ago, they’re not leveling with you, they’re not telling the truth.” ‘ — is this really the case?

I’ll be dissecting these (specious) claims over the next few posts, but lets start with a metric that everyone can understand — poverty. The chart below shows the so-called “Poverty Universe”; essentially the population of the United States, or all people who might be susceptible to falling into poverty (red one, right scale). The black line shows the percentage of the population of America’s population living below the poverty line.

In 2008 some 13.2% of Americans, or 39.1M lived in poverty. In 2014 (most recent year data is available) some 15.5% of Americans, or 48.1M lived in poverty. Clearly there has been an ENORMOUS increase in poverty. Is this “absolutely better off”?

To put this into context I’ve sourced some OECD data; the chart below shows America compared to forty other nations. I’ve highlighted the G7 (curiously, Japan is missing). America has more citizens living poverty than every other G7 nation. Only two countries — Israel and Mexico — have more citizens living in poverty than America.

So “absolutely better off”?

I don’t think so.

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