The coronavirus pandemic last year left millions of people out of work and set off the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression. Yet the share of people living in poverty in the United States fell to a record low because of the government’s enormous relief effort.
About 9.1 percent of Americans were poor last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, down from 11.8 percent in 2019. That figure — the lowest since records began in 1967, according to calculations from researchers at Columbia University — is based on a measure that accounts for the impact of government aid programs, which last year lifted millions of people out of poverty. The government’s official measure of poverty, which leaves out some major aid programs, rose to 11.4 percent, from a record low 10.5 percent in 2019.
The fact that poverty did not rise more during such an enormous economic disruption reflects the equally