CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship, September 16, 2022


September 16, 2022

  COVID-19 Hardship

September 16, 2022 

The U.S. Census Bureau poverty data edition. This week brought us a trove of data related to the level of poverty in America. There is much good news to report, along with some bad, and along the way we have learned some important lessons about the ability of government to do good when it comes to lifting up our children and our families. 

Perhaps the best news is that in 2021, child poverty was down to its lowest level ever. That’s powerful testimony to the effectiveness of the expanded Child Tax Credit. Unfortunately, the expanded CTC was not extended into 2022 – Congress will have another opportunity to address this later this year. More good news comes on the health care front – 1.1 million fewer Americans were uninsured in 2021 compared to 2020. The new Census data, coupled with the even more recent Census Household Pulse Survey data, offer up a decent snapshot of where we are as a country. Broad challenges remain – in this newsletter, for example, you’ll read about tremendous racial disparities, and you’ll see that as recently as last month, families were having trouble meeting household expenses and putting food on the table as inflation continues to affect the bottom line for many. 

In a statement, Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, touched on the importance of government investments in lifting people out of poverty and growing the middle class. 

“Looking at all these sources of information, it is absolutely clear that our investments to help people cope with the pandemic’s economic undertow worked; millions of people rose out of poverty,” she said. “It is also clear that our goal must be to lift incomes enough that people no longer experience hardship. Restoring the Child Tax Credit and extending the reach of nutrition and housing programs are essential investments in providing the economic security that Americans need.” 

Meanwhile, on the COVID-19 front, Americans are guardedly optimistic. New cases are down about 30 percent from the previous 14-day rolling average; hospitalizations are down 11 percent and deaths are down 6 percent. New, Omicron-specific boosters are now available to most Americans. Still, there is concern about the possibility of a fall/winter surge in cases. In addition, there is concern, as The New York Times reports, that Congress and the Biden Administration are not doing enough to make sure vaccinations get into the arms of people who need them – this year, there is only $550 million allocated through FEMA in vaccination spending, compared to $8.5 billion last year. And, as the Times notes, it is not vaccines that save lives but rather vaccinations. 




The “official” U.S. poverty rate was 11.6 percent in 2021, while the Supplemental Poverty Measure fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest point on record, according to data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The difference in the two estimates show how tax credits and noncash government programs lift more people out of poverty – the SPM takes into account tax credits, stimulus payments and other government benefits such as SNAP and housing vouchers; the official measure only counts cash income. Tweet this.


-9.6 million


9.6 million people were lifted out of poverty in 2021 by tax credits (the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit). Tweet this.




According to the SPM, child poverty fell 46 percent – from 9.7 percent in 2020 to 5.2 percent in 2021. That is the lowest recorded level ever, in large part due to the temporarily expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC). Tweet this.






Unfortunately, after Senate Republicans, joined by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, allowed the expanded CTC to expire at the end of December 2021, child poverty surged upward. According to the Columbia University’s Center for Poverty and Social Policy, the child poverty rate climbed from 12.1 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in January 2022. Tweet this.



8.4%/8.1% /2.7%


Between 2009 and 2021, poverty rates among Hispanic and Black children fell dramatically. For Hispanic children, it fell from 29.1 percent to 8.4 percent; for Black children, it fell from 25.2 percent to 8.1 percent. However, a pronounced racial divide still exists. The poverty rate among White children fell from 9.8 percent in 2009 to 2.7 percent in 2021. Tweet this.



11.3%/11.2% /12.4%/5.7% 


According to the SPM, among all Americans, tremendous racial disparities in poverty rates continue to exist. The poverty rate among Blacks of all ages was 11.3 percent; among Hispanics it was 11.2 percent and among American Indian/Alaska Native, it was 12.4 percent.  Among Whites, it was 5.7 percent.





Forty percent of adults had trouble paying for usual household expenses in August 2022, much worse than the 26.8 percent in August 2021. Again, Blacks and Hispanics were hardest hit; 52.6 percent of Blacks and 51.1 percent of Hispanics had trouble paying for usual household expenses, compared to 35.3 percent of Whites.




In August of 2022, food at home prices were 13.5 percent higher than a year earlier. Household Pulse Survey data show that 15.7 percent of people with children said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the previous seven days in a period ending August 8 of this year. That’s up from 10.4 percent in August of 2021 – an increase of 4.1 million people with children. 


1.1 million 

The number of uninsured Americans dropped from 8.6 percent in 2020 to 8.3 percent in 2021 – that means there were 1.1 million fewer Americans without health insurance.




In 2021, the uninsured rate was 6.6 percent in states that had agreed to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. In states that had not agreed to do so — “non-expansion states” — the uninsured rate was 12.7 percent. Five states with uninsured rates of 12 percent or more – Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming – had not expanded Medicaid eligibility. 



COVID-19 Watch