The Faces of Poverty

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The U.S. Census estimates that 13.4% of Americans, about 42 million, lived below the poverty line in 2017.

Of course, poverty is far from evenly distributed across the United States, and depending on a person’s race, gender, occupation, and social status, Americans are far less, or far more, likely to live in poverty. Some groups are more than twice as likely to experience poverty as the average American.

Both personal responsibility and structural pressures can lead to poverty, and experts often argue which affects poverty more. But some factors outside of the control of the individual — including being a woman, black, Hispanic, a child, or a disabled person — are an indicator that one is more likely to live in poverty.

Greg Acs is vice president at the Income and Benefits Policy Center of the Urban Institute, a economic and social policy think tank. Acs helped explain the complexity of poverty, and why those certain groups are more likely to experience poverty. “The issue with poverty is that it’s both a cause and a consequence of factors in the economy and society and personal decisions. So you’ll find some groups that have higher poverty rates than others in no small part due to their inability to generate a lot of income on their own as a result of historical, economic, social, and personal factors.”

24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2017 American Community Data from the U.S. Census Bureau to identify 11 distinct groups of Americans who are more likely than their peers to live in poverty. It is important to note that the more commonly reported poverty rate is based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, but to consistently use the level of detail required to break down poverty rates for specific groups, we used American Community Survey data in all cases.

Some of the groups on this list are more likely to grow up in difficult homes, poor neighborhoods, and inadequate school systems. They face discrimination and limited work or advancement opportunities, and the effects of generational poverty, all which make it more likely they will live in poverty.

Click here to see the faces of poverty in the United States
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology