Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors: Thirteenth Report to Congress. Economic Security Risk Factor 1. Poverty Rates

03/01/2014

Figure ECON 1. Percentage of Persons in Poverty by Age: 1959-2012

(In percent)

Figure ECON 1. Percentage of Persons in Poverty by Age: 1959-2012

Note: All persons under 18 include related children (own children, including stepchildren and adopted children, plus all other children in the household who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption), unrelated individuals under 18 (persons who are not living with any relatives), and householders or spouses under age 18.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012,” Current Population Reports, Series P60-245, and data published online at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty.html and http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032013/pov/toc.htm.


  • Figure ECON 1 shows the percentage of persons in poverty by age from 1959 to 2012. The official poverty rate was 15.0 percent in 2012, an increase of 3.7 percentage points over the 2000 rate of 11.3 percent.
  • All persons under 18 had a poverty rate of 21.8 percent in 2012. In all years after 1959, the child poverty rate was much higher than the overall poverty rate.
  • Table ECON 1 shows the percentage of persons in poverty by age and family type for selected years. In 2012, the poverty rate for the elderly (persons ages 65 and over) was 9.1 percent and the poverty rate for other adults (persons ages 18 to 64) was 13.7 percent.
  • Related children from birth to age five have had the highest poverty rate among all age groups throughout the last four decades. In 2012, 24.4 percent of related children from birth to age 5 lived below the poverty line.
  • The poverty rates for persons in both married-couple families and female-headed families have decreased since the 1960s. In 1959, 18.2 percent of persons in married-couple families and 49.4 percent of persons in female-headed families were poor. By 2012, 7.5 percent of persons in married-couple families and 33.9 percent of persons in female-headed families were poor.

Table ECON 1. Percentage of Persons in Poverty by Age and Family Type: Selected Years

Calendar Year Related Children All Persons
Ages 0-5 Ages 6-17 Total Under 18 18 to 64 65 & over In married-couple families In female- headed families
1959 NA NA 22.4 27.3 17.0 35.2 18.2 49.4
1963 NA NA 19.5 23.1 NA NA 14.9 47.7
1966 NA NA 14.7 17.6 10.5 28.5 10.3 39.8
1969 15.3 13.1 12.1 14.0 8.7 25.3 7.4 38.2
1973 15.7 13.6 11.1 14.4 8.3 16.3 6.0 37.5
1976 17.7 15.1 11.8 16.0 9.0 15.0 6.4 37.3
1979 17.9 15.1 11.7 16.4 8.9 15.2 6.3 34.9
1980 20.3 16.8 13.0 18.3 10.1 15.7 7.4 36.7
1981 22.0 18.4 14.0 20.0 11.1 15.3 8.1 38.7
1982 23.3 20.4 15.0 21.9 12.0 14.6 9.1 40.6
1983 24.6 20.4 15.2 22.3 12.4 13.8 9.3 40.2
1984 23.4 19.7 14.4 21.5 11.7 12.4 8.5 38.4
1985 22.6 18.8 14.0 20.7 11.3 12.6 8.2 37.6
1986 21.6 18.8 13.6 20.5 10.8 12.4 7.3 38.3
1987 22.3 18.3 13.4 20.3 10.6 12.5 7.2 38.1
1988 21.8 17.5 13.0 19.5 10.5 12.0 6.6 37.2
1989 21.9 17.4 12.8 19.6 10.2 11.4 6.7 35.9
1990 23.0 18.2 13.5 20.6 10.7 12.2 6.9 37.2
1991 24.0 19.5 14.2 21.8 11.4 12.4 7.2 39.7
1992 25.7 19.4 14.8 22.3 11.9 12.9 7.7 38.5
1993 25.6 20.0 15.1 22.7 12.4 12.2 8.0 38.7
1994 24.5 19.5 14.5 21.8 11.9 11.7 7.4 38.6
1995 23.7 18.3 13.8 20.8 11.4 10.5 6.8 36.5
1996 22.7 18.3 13.7 20.5 11.4 10.8 6.9 35.8
1997 21.6 18.0 13.3 19.9 10.9 10.5 6.4 35.1
1998 20.6 17.1 12.7 18.9 10.5 10.5 6.2 33.1
1999 18.4 15.7 11.9 17.1 10.1 9.7 5.9 30.5
2000 17.8 14.7 11.3 16.2 9.6 9.9 5.5 27.9
2001 18.2 14.6 11.7 16.3 10.1 10.1 5.7 28.6
2002 18.5 15.3 12.1 16.7 10.6 10.4 6.1 28.8
2003 19.8 15.9 12.5 17.6 10.8 10.2 6.2 30.0
2004 20.0 16.0 12.7 17.8 11.3 9.8 6.4 30.5
2005 20.0 15.7 12.6 17.6 11.1 10.1 5.9 31.1
2006 20.0 15.4 12.3 17.4 10.8 9.4 5.7 30.5
2007 20.8 16.0 12.5 18.0 10.9 9.7 5.8 30.7
2008 21.3 17.1 13.2 19.0 11.7 9.7 6.7 31.4
2009 23.8 18.2 14.3 20.7 12.9 8.9 7.2 32.5
2010 25.3 19.6 15.1 22.0 13.8 8.9 7.7 34.3
2011 24.5 19.9 15.0 21.9 13.7 8.7 7.4 34.2
2012 24.4 19.8 15.0 21.8 13.7 9.1 7.5 33.9

Note: All persons under 18 include related children (own children, including stepchildren and adopted children, plus all other children in the household who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption), unrelated individuals under 18 (persons who are not living with any relatives), and householders or spouses under age 18.

In 1959-1987, persons in married-couple families include a small number of persons in male-headed families with no spouse present. In 1988, the first year for which we have separate data for these families, poor persons in male-headed families with no spouse present comprised just over 8 percent of the combined total of all persons below the poverty level.

Spouses are not present in the female-headed family category.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012,” Current Population Reports, Series P60-245, and data published online at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty.html.

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