This drop in the poverty rate would represent an acceleration of a more gradual trend that has taken place for the last few years. The poverty rate rose to nearly 16% in the wake of the Great Recession. By 2019, after a steady but slow economic recovery over the previous decade, the poverty rate had fallen to 12.3%. But while the overall trends are promising, this figure still represents approximately 40 million Americans, and poverty hits some populations harder than others.
One of the demographic groups most affected by poverty in the U.S. is children. More than 18% of children under five were in poverty in 2019, while 16.2% of children aged 5–17 were in poverty. Children are unable to work, and their parents face increased costs for expenses like food, housing, and health care, which puts families with children at greater risk of poverty. However, a new expanded child tax credit passed as part of the American Rescue Plan is projected to cut child poverty in half through monthly payments to households with children. At the other end of the spectrum, Americans aged 65 and over—buoyed by long-standing safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare—have the lowest poverty rate of any age group at 9.4%.