One chart shows how pandemic poverty reached a new high in March
- Pandemic-era poverty levels reached a new high in March 2021, right as a new stimulus was passed.
- That $1.9 trillion package contains several measures that could drastically cut poverty.
- Still, long-term economic recovery is still far off for many.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Throughout the pandemic, researchers from Zhejiang University, University of Chicago, and the University of Notre Dame have tracked US poverty rates. In March 2021, pandemic-era poverty reached a new height.
According to the researchers, the poverty rate reached a previous high in November 2020, when 8 million Americans fell into poverty over a six-month period as enhanced unemployment benefits expired.
From December 2021 to January 2021, the poverty rate fell as new stimulus checks went out.
“It’s really been a bit of a rollercoaster for poverty — not surprisingly, because we’ve had policy that’s been a roller coaster,” report co-author and University of Chicago economist Bruce Meyer told Insider in February.
The most recent data shows an unfortunate increase in the last month, however:
“The groups that experienced the sharpest rise in poverty include children, whites, women, those with low
education, and those in states that have historically paid unemployment insurance to a small share of the unemployed,” the report’s authors write.
Importantly, those numbers don’t reflect most of the impact of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, since the data comes from the third week of March; the bill was signed into law on March 11.
That $1.9 trillion package could drastically cut poverty. Two different studies — one from the Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University and another from the Urban Institute — found that the plan could cut poverty by a third. Biden himself cited the finding that the package could halve child poverty. However, many of the poverty-fighting measures are currently only set to last for a year.
Employment also saw massive rebounds in March, as the US added 916,000 jobs. Labor force participation rose slightly, and both headline unemployment and U-6 unemployment (which looks at Americans who work part-time and workers who have dropped out of the labor force but still want a job) fell.
But even at that pace of recovery, it could still take the economy until January 2022 to return to February 2020 employment rates.
Recovery has also been uneven. Women — particularly women of color — have been disproportionately impacted by unemployment and economic devastation.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, it will take about 15 months to get women’s employment back to February 2020’s level of 76.3 million. For men, it will take a little over six months.
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