Oct 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

Study: 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since May

 People wait in line at a food distribution site in a Brooklyn neighborhood
People wait in line at a food distribution site in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Nearly 8 million Americans have slid into poverty since May, according to a Columbia University study reported by the New York Times.

Why it matters: The researchers found that the monthly poverty rate for September was higher than rates during April or May, and it also topped pre-crisis levels, "[d]ue to the expiration of the CARES Act’s stimulus checks and $600 per week supplement to unemployment benefits."

  • The finding comes as it appears unlikely that a deal will be reached on fresh stimulus aid before November's election.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday said he would not put a potential $1.8 trillion+ deal struck by Democrats and the Trump administration on the Senate floor, saying the number is “a much larger amount than I can sell to my members."

What they found: "The monthly poverty rate increased from 15% to 16.7% from February to September 2020, even after taking the CARES Act’s income transfers into account," the Columbia University researchers wrote.

  • "Increases in monthly poverty rates have been particularly acute for Black and Hispanic individuals, as well as for children," they added.
  • "In April and May, the CARES Act was successful in offsetting potential increases in monthly poverty, but was not successful at preventing a rise in deep poverty, defined as having monthly income lower than half the monthly poverty threshold."
  • "The CARES Act’s stimulus checks and unemployment benefits lifted more than 18 million individuals out of monthly poverty in April, but this number fell to around 4 million individuals in August and September after the expiration of the $600 per week unemployment supplement."
  • “The Cares Act was unusually successful, but now it’s gone, and a lot more people are poor,” Zachary Parolin, an author of the Columbia study, told the Times.

Worth noting: A separate study by researchers at Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, found that 6 million people have slipped into poverty in the last three months, per the Times.

  • "Significantly, the studies differ on the most recent month: While the Columbia model shows an improvement in September, the Chicago and Notre Dame analysts found poverty continued to grow," the Times wrote.
  • "These numbers are very concerning," Bruce Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago and an author of the study, told the Times. "They tell us people are having a lot more trouble paying their bills, paying their rent, putting food on the table."
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