EPI's weekly illustration of education data trends — July 21, 2016

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The Percentage of People in Poverty is Decreasing


House speaker Paul Ryan, in his speech at the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016, said that poverty was at an all time high during the Obama Administration. His statement is only correct if one uses the "official" poverty rate from the US Census. However, the Census Bureau more recently (2011 in fact) created an adjusted measure called the supplementary poverty rate to more accurately reflect other important indices of poverty, including food stamps and a more liberal definition of "family." This is considered the most appropriate and accurate measure of poverty in the United States.

If we focus on the supplemental rate, Representative Ryan's statement is not accurate. As illustrated in the graphic below, poverty has truly increased since 2000 (meaning also during the Bush Administration), but over the long haul from 1967, it has decreased substantially from 19 percent of the population in poverty to 15.4 percent in 2014 (the latest data point). It has also decreased from 16.1 percent in 2011.

SOURCE: US Census Bureau and The Washington Post.