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Report Number P60-210
Joseph Dalaker and Bernadette D. Proctor
Component ID: #ti402930960


Poverty is one of the key social indicators we as a country use to measure ourselves. Because poor people in the United States are too diverse to be characterized along any one dimension, this report illustrates how poverty rates vary by selected characteristics age, race and Hispanic origin,1 nativity, family composition, work experience, and geography.

The estimates in this report are based on interviewing a sample of the population. Respondents provide answers to the best of their ability, but as with all surveys, the estimates may differ from the actual values.

Component ID: #ti669598913


(Confidence intervals for estimates are provided in Table A. The uncertainty in the estimates should be taken into consideration when using these estimates.)

  • The poverty rate dropped from 12.7 percent in 1998 to 11.8 percent in 1999—the lowest rate since 1979. In 1999, 32.3 million people were poor, down from 34.5 million in 1998.
  • The poverty rate for people under age 18 dropped from 18.9 percent in 1998 to 16.9 percent in 1999—the lowest child poverty rate since 1979.
  • The poverty rate declined for people 65 years and over, from 10.5 percent in 1998 to a record-low 9.7 percent in 1999.
  • Poverty rates and the number of poor declined for every racial and ethnic group. Poverty rates have fallen below or equalled the lowest rate ever recorded for each group except Whites:
    • The poverty rate for Blacks fell to a record low of 23.6 percent in 1999, down from the previous low of 26.1 percent in 1998. However, the poverty rate for Blacks in 1999 was still about three times the poverty rate for White non-Hispanics (7.7 percent).
    • The White non-Hispanic poverty rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest rate for this group since 1979 and not significantly different from the low rates during 1973-1974 and 1976-1979.
    • The poverty rate for Hispanics (who may be of any race) declined from 25.6 percent in 1998 to 22.8 percent in 1999—not statistically different from the lowest rates recorded for this group (1972-1974 and 1976-1979).
    • The poverty rate for Asians and Pacific Islanders declined from 12.5 percent in 1998 to 10.7 percent in 1999, equalling its record low since 1987, when poverty data for this group first became available.
  • The 1997-1999 average poverty rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives was 25.9 percent, higher than for White non-Hispanics and Asians and Pacific Islanders, but not statistically different from Blacks and Hispanics.
  • Poverty rates declined in the Northeast and West in 1999, to 10.9 percent and 12.6 percent, down from 12.3 percent and 14.0 percent, respectively, in 1998. The poverty rate did not change significantly for those in the South or Midwest.
  • Four-fifths (81 percent) of the net decline in the number of poor occurred in central cities within metropolitan areas, where only 29 percent of all people and 41 percent of the poor lived.
  • In seven states and in the District of Columbia, the poverty rate decreased significantly, based on comparing 2-year moving averages of 1998-99 with those for 1997-98, and no state showed an increase. Poverty rates dropped in Arizona, Arkansas, California, the District of Columbia, New York, South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia.
  • The average income deficit for poor families (the average dollar amount needed to raise a poor family out of poverty) was $6,687 in 1999, statistically unchanged from 1998.
  • Using different methods to measure poverty changes one’s perception of who is poor. Four experimental measures show standardized poverty rates to be lower for children and people in female householder families and higher for the elderly and people in married-couple families than under the official poverty measure.

1 Hispanics may be of any race.

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