University of Wisconsin–Madison

Who is Poor?

Poverty Rates by Demographic Subgroups

The U.S. Census Bureau releases annual estimates of poverty by various subgroups in the United States. Below, this section describes each of these groups for the year 2020:

U.S. Poverty Rate by Age

Age: Children had the highest poverty rate of the three major age groups: children under 18 (16.1%), adults aged 18–64 (10.4%), and seniors aged 65 and older (9.0%).

Bar chart indicating 2020 poverty rate by age groups: All 11.4%; 18 and under 16.1%; 18-64 10.4%; and 65 and up 9.0%
Figure 2. The U.S. poverty rate in 2020 was highest among children and lowest among elders.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Table B-1, p. 53.

U.S. Poverty Rates by Age and Sex

Age and sex: When considering the difference in poverty between male and female Americans by age, among adults, poverty was higher among women. The poverty rate for those over age 18 was about 3 percentage points higher among women than men.

Bar chart comparing poverty rates between adult males and females in 2020: 18 and under Female 16.4%, Male 15.7%; 18-64 Female 12.0%, Male 8.8%; and 65 and up Female 10.1%, Male 7.6%
Figure 3. Poverty rates differed most between sexes among adults in 2020.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Figure 10, p. 16.

U.S. Poverty Rates by Race/Ethnicity

Race and ethnicity: African Americans had the highest rate of poverty among the four groups of White (non-Hispanic), African American, Hispanic, and Asian. The poverty rate among African Americans was 19.5%, while for Hispanics it was 17.0%, for whites 10.1%, and Asians 8.1%. Poverty estimates for American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and those reporting two or more races are not shown separately. These groups are smaller than other U.S. American minority groups which creates data analysis limitations due to sample size.

Bar chart showing US poverty rates among race and ethnicity. White (Non-Hispanic) 10.1%; African American 19.5%; Hispanic 17.0%; and Asian 8.1%
Figure 4. Poverty rates among African Americans were around twice those of non-Hispanic white and Asian Americans in 2020.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Table B-1, p. 53.

U.S. Poverty Rates by Family Type

Family composition: Among different family types (married couple, single mother, and single father), single-mother families had the highest poverty rate at 23.4%.

Bar chart showing U.S. Poverty Rate by Family Type: All Families 8.7%; Married-Couple Families 4.7%; Single-Mother Families 23.4%; and Single-Father Families 11.4%
Figure 5. Poverty among single-parent families, especially those headed by a single mother, was highest among family types in 2020.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Table B-2, p. 54.

U.S. Poverty Rates by Region

Region: Poverty rates differ by region of the United States, with the South having a higher rate than the Northeast, Midwest, and West in 2020.

U.S. map showing poverty rates by region. South 13.3%, West 10.6%, Midwest 10.1%, and Northeast 10.1%.
Figure 6. Poverty rates in the South were higher than the rest of the United States in 2020.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Table B-1, p. 53.

U.S. Poverty Rates by Work Experience

Work: Those who didn’t work at least one week in 2020 had the highest poverty rate of 28.8%. Among all workers with at least one week of work throughout the year, the poverty rate was 5.0%.

Bar chart showing percentage of poverty among workers aged 18 to 64. Total ages 18-64 10.4%; All workers 5.0%; Full-time, year-round workers 1.6%; Less than full-time, year-round workers 11.3%; and Did not work at least one week 28.8%.
Figure 7. Poverty among workers aged 18 to 64 was lowest for those who worked full time, year round and highest for those who did not work at all in 2020.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Table B-1, p. 53.

U.S. Poverty Rates by Disability Status

Disability status: Those with a disability had a poverty rate of 25.0%; 9.3% of those without a disability were in poverty.

Bar chart showing poverty rate among people aged 18-64 with and without a disability. People with a disability 25.0%, and people without a disability 9.3%.
Figure 8. The poverty rate in 2020 of people between the ages of 18 and 64 with a disability was much higher than that for all people that age without a disability.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Table B-1, p. 53.

U.S. Poverty Rates by Educational Attainment

Education: Among adults aged 25 years of age and older, those without a high school diploma had the highest poverty rate of 24.7%. Those with a high school diploma were just over half that rate at 13.2%. Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher had the lowest rate at 4.0%.

Bar chart showing percent of poverty rate among education level. Total, age 25 and older 9.5%; No high school diploma 24.7%; High school, no college 13.2%; Some college, no degree 8.4%; and Bachelor's degree or higher 4.0%.
Figure 9. People with a college degree had much lower poverty rates than people with less education in 2020.
Source:
U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. Table B-1, p. 53.