The official poverty rate declined 0.5 percentage points from 12.3% to 11.8% in 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This amounts to 1.4 million fewer people in poverty.
While both the poverty rate and the number of people in poverty fell for many demographic groups between 2017 and 2018, a large proportion of the decline can be attributed to female-householder families with no spouse present.
Poverty rates for all people in all female-householder families dropped by 1.7 percentage points, to 26.8%, the lowest rate for this group on record.
In 2018, workers in female-householder families worked full-time, year-round at a greater rate, with employment changes concentrated among blacks and Hispanics. Poverty rates for all people in all female-householder families dropped by 1.7 percentage points, to 26.8%, the lowest rate for this group on record.
Female-householder families were the only family type to experience a statistically significant decrease in poverty between 2017 and 2018.
Improvements to the measurement of poverty make comparisons across time challenging. The figure below presents adjusted historical estimates using the methodology outlined in another America Counts story released today.
Without these adjustments, the previous low for female-householder families was a tie between 2000 (28.5%) and 2017 (28.5%). With these adjustments, the poverty rate in 2000 was higher (30.3%).
Female-householder families are one of three primary family types (defined as two or more related people living together, with one of them as the householder) classified by the Census Bureau for poverty measurement. They tend to be younger and more diverse than the overall population.
While people in female-householder families represented 17.8% of the population in primary families (46.7 million of 262.0 million), they represented 83.9% of the decrease in poverty for families (1.0 million of the 1.2 million decrease).
Children in Female-Householder Families
As a group, related children in female-householder families saw their poverty rate decrease by 2.5 percentage points in 2018, representing 649,000 fewer children in poverty.
Among all people in female-householder families, related children under age 18 represented 36.6% (17.1 million of 46.7 million), yet they accounted for 62.8% (649,000 of 1.0 million) of the decrease in poverty in this family group.
These children made up 23.6% (17.1 million of the 72.4 million) of all the related children under age 18 in primary families but 74.9% (649,000 of 866,000) of the decrease in the poverty rate for children in families.
Blacks and Hispanics in Female-Householder Families
Among individuals in female-householder families, statistically significant declines in poverty rates from 2017 to 2018 by race were limited to blacks and Hispanics.
Poverty rates for blacks in female-householder families decreased to 31.7% in 2018, a year-to-year decrease of 2.7 percentage points. The 2018 poverty rate for related black children under age 18 in female-householder families was not statistically different from 2017.
Changes in Employment
More people from female-householder families found full-time, full-year employment in 2018 than in 2017, particularly among blacks and Hispanics. This led to higher incomes and fewer adults and children in poverty for these groups.
The proportion of workers in female-householder families who worked full-time, year-round increased 1.9 percentage points to 62.4%. This increase was particularly pronounced for blacks (up 4.2 percentage points) and Hispanics (up 3.6 percentage points).
The rise in full-time, year-round work led to an increase in incomes and earnings at the household level. In 2018, real median income for female, no spouse present households increased 5.8% and real median earnings increased by 7.6%.
As a result, we see some changes in family income as well. The proportion of people in female-householder families with family incomes under $25,000 decreased 2.1 percentage points, while the proportion with incomes over $75,000 increased by 1.9 percentage points from 2017 to 2018.
For Blacks in female-householder families, the proportion with family incomes less than $25,000 decreased by 4.1 percentage points, while the proportion with incomes over $75,000 increased 2.7 percentage points.
For Hispanics in female-householder families, the proportion with family incomes less than $25,000 decreased by 3.0 percentage points, while the proportion with incomes over $75,000 was not significantly different from 2017.
See Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018 for more information on year-to-year changes in poverty in the United States.
John Creamer is an economist and Abinash Mohanty is a statistician in the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division at the Census Bureau.