(Bloomberg) -- U.S. household income fell in 2020 while the national poverty rate rose from a 60-year low as the Covid-19 pandemic upended the U.S. economy and threw millions out of work.
Median, inflation-adjusted household income decreased 2.9% last year to $67,500 according to annual data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The poverty rate rose to 11.4% after having dropped for five straight years and reaching the lowest since 1959 in 2019.
The data help flesh out the picture of American families’ economic health in 2020 amid a pandemic that caused the first annual economic contraction since 2009, put tens of millions out of work and exacerbated existing inequalities.
Lower-wage service-industry workers and people of color bore the brunt of job losses. The government’s stimulus checks and extra $600 a week in jobless benefits helped soften the blow, supporting incomes and spending amid widespread unemployment.
If not for government intervention, poverty would have been much higher, according to an analysis of real-time poverty data by James Sullivan at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Economics and Bruce Meyer at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.
“For example, expanded unemployment insurance and the first round of stimulus checks prevented 12 million individuals from falling into poverty in the first few months of the pandemic,” they said.
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