Guest Comment: Census Bureau releases new poverty numbers | Opinion | cincinnati

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“If lawmakers really want to address poverty, the way to do it is through basic income.”

On Tuesday, the US Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty in the United States. Every year, this is the biggest moment in poverty statistics as we get a snapshot of what poverty looked like the previous year.

While state-level information is available, from the national numbers we can take away some important takeaways.

Household income will decline in 2022

Inflation has decimated household incomes as their real value has fallen compared to 2021. The silver lining in this measure is that incomes have been flat for Asian, Black, and Latino households, although still much lower for Black and Latino households than for Black and Latino households. Non-Hispanic whites.

Inequality will decline in 2022

For the first time since the Great Recession, the US Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality across the income distribution, fell in 2022. This may be because inflation pressures hit higher-income households harder than they hit lower-income households.

Poverty before interest is fixed

The Census Bureau estimates that 38 million Americans live in poverty in 2022, or 12% of the total population. None of these numbers were significantly different from the 2021 numbers.

Black poverty has fallen to a historic low

The official poverty rate for Black households decreased from 2021 to 2022. This was the lowest rate ever.

Poverty rose after benefits were calculated

2021 was an important year because poverty after taxes and public benefits reached a record high. This is due to the expansion of the child tax credit and other income supports provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Senator Joe Manchin decided that he would not support making the child tax credit permanent, the program expired at the end of 2022. It resulted in the largest single-year increase in poverty after accounting for benefits, an increase of 4.6 percentage points.

Child poverty after counting benefits more than doubled

Unsurprisingly, the decision to end the expansion of the child tax credit will impact children most. The child poverty rate after tax benefits rose from 5% in 2021 to 12% in 2022, largely due to the expiration of the child tax credit expansion.

So what can we do with this information? Policymakers at the state level have the tools to combat poverty.

They can Expand the earned income tax credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit is the nation’s largest anti-poverty program after Social Security, and Ohio has a statewide version of the credit. By increasing the amount of cash this gives to low-income working families, it could eliminate poverty statewide.

Lawmakers can Ensuring access to food aid. The federal government gives states significant latitude to control eligibility for SNAP (formerly known as “food stamps”) and eligibility for free or reduced school breakfast and lunch programs. Both of these programs are federally funded, keeping millions across the country out of poverty. By allowing access to these programs, Ohio can help keep people out of poverty.

If lawmakers really want to address poverty, the way to do so will be through it Basic income. Programs like the negative income tax have been considered in the United States for half a century and have been used during the pandemic. The most direct way to fight poverty is to provide income to people.

Poverty is a political choice that can be made at the state level. We can only hope that policymakers will see this issue as a priority one day.

This story was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and is republished here with permission.

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