Brookings Data Now: Statistics of Poverty in America

In this “poverty statistics edition” of Brookings Data Now: millions of Americans continue to face poverty; single-mother families in poverty; safety nets keep Americans out of poverty; minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation; and many high-school graduates are under prepared for college.

For more data on and policy proposals to address poverty in America, visit The Hamilton Project’s recent publication of fourteen policy proposals.


Percentage of Americans who lived in poverty in 2012

Of this number, 16.1 million of the 46.5 million people living in poverty were children.


Average credit amount of the Earned Income Tax Credit

The EITC alone keeps 6.5 million Americans, including 3.3 million children, out of poverty.


Percentage of children living in single-mother families who live below the federal poverty level in 2012

In this same year, single mothers headed nearly 25% of U.S. families.


1968’s minimum wage per hour in 2014 dollars

It was $8.58 per hour in 1979 in 2014 dollars. Today’s federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour, indicating a failure of the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.


Percentage of students who leave high school minimally prepared for college

Just 9 percent of students who enter college from the bottom income quartile actually gain a bachelor’s degree by age 25.

Elina Saxena contributed to this post.