In 2014, 14.8 percent of Americans were in poverty. That’s the headline figure the Census Bureau released today as part of its annual report on income, poverty, and access to health insurance in the US. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. For one thing, the official poverty measure, taken without context, is woefully incomplete.
More importantly, the number itself doesn’t tell us much about the nature of poverty in America. To get a full picture, one needs to dive into the raw microdata the census released today as well. Unfortunately, at the moment the agency only has data for the official poverty measure, not the superior supplemental measure also released today.
Still, by delving deeper into the numbers, we learn two things: that poverty is overwhelmingly concentrated among children, the elderly, and disabled people; and that government anti-poverty programs do significant amounts to combat it, and could do more if expanded.