America’s Poverty Rate Remained Absolutely Awful in 2014

A woman carries her son at a food bank in New York City.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The U.S. economy may have improved in 2014, but the poverty rate didn’t budge. The Census Bureau reports Wednesday that 46.7 million Americans, or 14.8 percent of the population, lived below the poverty line last year, statistically unchanged from 2013.

However consistent the recovery has been over the past half-decade, these numbers are a reminder that it simply hasn’t been that strong, and it clearly hasn’t trickled down much to the neediest. Yes, these figures are backward-looking. And, unfortunately, they’re not perfectly comparable to 2012 and before—starting in 2013, the census revamped its survey on income, though it says the changes didn’t make a statistical difference in the poverty rate. Nonetheless, they suggest that we’ve been essentially unable to meaningfully reduce impoverishment in the time since the economy technically started its rebound.

Will that change this year? I don’t know. With the official jobless rate down to 5.1 percent, only now are we arguably getting close to what you might call full employment, though it’s hard to call it that when so many Americans have given up looking for work over time. Lots of things have gotten much better since 2009. But, as today’s news shows, some clearly haven’t.