Fact of the Week: Young Adults More Likely to Be Poor Now than in 1980


December 10, 2014

New data released by the Census Bureau last Thursday show that young adults age 18-34 are more likely to live in poverty now than they were in 1980. The Census Explorer’s Young Adults: Then and Now looks how this age group has changed in the last several decades in a number of different categories, including economically. The results show that between 2009 and 2013, on average, 13.5 million young adults – or one in five – lived in poverty. In 1980, 8.4 million – or one in seven – young adults were poor.
The report uses data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Censuses and the 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, which were also released on Thursday. The findings also showed that 65 percent of young adults were employed on average between 2009 and 2013, down from 69 percent in 1980. These statistics show the effect the Great Recession and the slow recovery has had on our nation’s Millennials.

Living In Poverty Age 18 34

The Explorer’s tool also includes an interesting interactive map that allows users to look at young adult poverty rates (and 13 other demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics) on a state, county, metropolitan area or neighborhood level, and see how these areas have changed over time. This could be very helpful for advocates looking to share this information with their local, state, and national elected officials (including those in Congress, who will be voting this week on funding for critical programs that help lift millions of people out of poverty).

The Census Bureau data released Thursday also contained 5-year averages of poverty data for other ages, too, and the numbers weren’t good. They estimate that, overall, 15.4 percent of the country was poor between 2009 and 2013. As we’ve noted before, poverty among children is even worse: 21.6 percent of kids under 18 were poor during this time. Roughly 40 percent of families with kids headed by a single mom were poor, and for single moms who only have children under the age of 5, that rate jumps to a shocking 47 percent.

As we noted in our national report on poverty released in September, which was based on the Census Bureau poverty data released at the time, too many of our neighbors are still being left behind even as our economy continues to recover years after the Great Recession ended in 2009. We know that strong federal programs create jobs, grow the economy, reduce inequity, and keep millions out of poverty, while cuts to these programs in favor of corporate tax cuts will increase poverty. We need more investments in the programs that help our Millennials – and the rest of our nation – from falling even deeper into despair. The future of our nation depends on it.

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