U.S. sees biggest yearly jump in poverty rate in 60 years

Drive-thru food bank line in Las Vegas.
(Image credit: DAVID BECKER/AFP via Getty Images)

By historical standards, poverty levels in the United States remain low, but the country has seen the biggest jump in poverty in a single year since the government began tracking such information 60 years ago, The Washington Post reports.

New data released Wednesday by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame shows the poverty rate increased to 11.7 percent in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June, marking the fifth straight month of incline. In that time span, around 7.8 million Americans have fallen below the poverty line, or an income of $26,200 for a family of four.

Not only is the rise the largest in several decades, it is also nearly double the second-biggest increase, which occurred between 1979 and 1980 during the oil crisis, the Post reports.

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Notre Dame and University of Chicago economists say the situation, unsurprisingly, stems from the coronavirus pandemic and the tough labor market it has created, as well as the fact that government aid is dwindling. A solution to either would help — when Congress passed the CARES Act in the spring and sent stimulus checks to Americans, poverty actually decreased — and it looks like a new relief bill is the more realistic goal. "Given the state of the virus, I wouldn't bet on significant improvement in the labor market in the short run," James Sullivan, a professor at Notre Dame, told the Post.

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