Poverty and Income

A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends on Income Inequality

The broad facts of income inequality over the past six decades are easily summarized:

  • The years from the end of World War II into the 1970s were ones of substantial economic growth and broadly shared prosperity. 
  • Beginning in the 1970s, economic growth slowed and the income gap widened.
  • The value of a household’s property and financial assets, minus the value of its debts, is much more highly concentrated than income. 


Greenstein: Ryan "Opportunity Grant"Proposal Would Likely Increase Poverty and Shrink Resources for Poverty Programs Over Time

While some other elements of the Ryan poverty plan deserve serious consideration, such as those relating to the Earned Income Tax Credit and criminal justice reform, his "Opportunity Grant"would likely increase poverty and hardship, and is therefore ill-advised, for several reasons.



Chart Book: The War on Poverty at 50, Overview

As we mark the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's War on Poverty, we should recognize that poverty has fallen significantly over the last half-century when measured using a comprehensive poverty measure, and other troubling poverty-related conditions have declined.




The poverty guideline, the federal government’s estimate of a minimum income used in determining eligibility for many federal programs, is $23,850 for a family of four in 2014, $11,670 for a single individual, and $4,060 for each additional person. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, though many states (and some municipalities) have set their own minimum wages at a higher level.

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The Center analyzes major economic developments affecting low- and moderate-income Americans, including trends in poverty, income inequality, and the working poor.  In addition, we analyze the asset rules in various public benefit programs that can discourage low-income people from building modest savings and highlight potential reforms.

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