Friday, September 16, 2011

Census Report: Poverty Rate of Single Men Increased to 21.7% in 2010

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report about income and poverty in 2010, showing that median household incomes have declined and that the official poverty rate has increased to 15.1%, up from 14.3% in 2009. For practitioners providing comprehensive services to low-income noncustodial parents, especially men of color, the report provides evidence of the economic difficulties that these fathers have faced since the start of the Great Recession in 2007, as well as over the past decade. Although the current Census publication does not specifically report statistics for either low-income noncustodial parents or men of color, the circumstances of these fathers can be inferred by looking at individuals and households with similar characteristics.

The poverty rate among single men was 21.7% in 2010, up from 20% in 2009. People of color, both men and women, were much more likely to experience poverty, with the black and Hispanic rates of poverty – 27.4% and 26.6% respectively – more than double the 9.9% rate among white non-Hispanic people in 2010. The poverty threshold in 2010 for a single-person household, under 65 years old, was $11,344.

Large portions of single men experiencing poverty had incomes far below the official poverty threshold. The average income of these impoverished single men in 2010 was $4,840. However, more than a third – 35% – had incomes that were $1,344 or less for the entire year. Another 22% of single men in poverty had incomes that ranged from $1,345 to $6,344. The remaining 43% had incomes from $6,345 up to the poverty threshold of $11,344.

Income ranges of single men in poverty
Percent of single men in poverty
No income - $1,344
$1,345 - $6,344
$6,345 - $11,344

The increase of poverty among noncustodial fathers is closely linked to their ability to find full-time employment since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. According to the Census report, “since 2007, the number of men working full time, year round with earnings decreased by 6.6 million.” The income of all single-male households decreased by 7.9% from 2007 to 2010, falling to a median of $35,627. For comparison, the Center for Family Policy and Practice noted in an article titled “BEST Incomes for Noncustodial Parents Paying Child Support” that a noncustodial parent of two children paying 25% of his or her income for child support would need to earn $40,016 in order to also pay for basic monthly expenses and have economic security.

People of color experienced larger income declines than white people since the beginning of the Great Recession, with black households’ incomes falling the fastest. Black household income decreased by 10.1% from 2007 to 2010, falling to a median income of $32,068. Hispanic household income decreased by 7.2% to $37,759, about 18% higher than black households. In contrast, white non-Hispanic household income decreased less sharply by 5.4% to $54,620, about 70% higher than black households.

Black people were three times as likely to be in deep poverty than white non-Hispanic people. Among black people, 13.5% had incomes that were below half of the federal poverty threshold. Among white non-Hispanic people, the portion was 4.3%. Looking at people with incomes below 200% of the poverty threshold, both Hispanic and black people were more than twice as likely to have low incomes than white people. More than half of all Hispanic and black people – 54.6% and 51.3% respectively – had incomes that were less than twice the poverty threshold, compared to 25.5% of white people.

Federally-funded programs often use multiples of the poverty threshold to determine a person’s eligibility, for example 125%, 150% or 185%. The largest percentage – 185% – is often used as an upper limit for what can be considered “low income.” For a single-person low-income household, the upper limit, or 185% of the poverty threshold, is about $20,986. This low-income level corresponds roughly to the 20th percentile of all household incomes in 2010, which was $20,000. In other words, about 20% – or 1 in 5 – of all households, including both family and single-person households, had incomes that were below $20,000 per year in 2010.

Low-income households have lost a larger percentage of their income than higher-income households since 1999, the year that incomes peaked prior to the 2001 recession. The Census report notes that “changes in household income at selected percentiles shows that income inequality is increasing.” Low-income households at the 20th percentile have experienced a 10.8% decrease in household income from 1999 to 2010. This decrease is more than three times the 3.5% decrease experienced by higher-income households at the 80th percentile. Since 2007, the start of the Great Recession, low-income households have lost 6.3% of their income.

Household income in 2010
Decrease 1999 to 2010
Decrease 2007 to 2010
20th percentile ($20,000)
80th percentile ($100,065)

Lastly, the Southern states were hit hardest by the increases in poverty from 2009 to 2010. According to the Census report, “the South was the only region to show increases in both the poverty rate and the number in poverty—16.9 percent and 19.1 million in 2010, up from 15.7 percent and 17.6 million in 2009. … The South had the highest regional poverty rate.”

The Census report is titled “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010.” Links to additional presentations, charts and fact sheets can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.

CFFPP welcomes comments and questions regarding this post, either below, on CFFPP's Facebook page, or by email to Nino Rodriguez, program and policy specialist, at

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