Sharp decline in poverty among US immigrants

The U.S. has witnessed a historic decline in poverty despite the 2007-2009 recession and Covid-19 induced economic turmoil.

The United States reported a significant decline in poverty in recent years across the immigrant population with a particularly sharp drop in child poverty, a Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report revealed. Poverty declined among both naturalized and non-citizen immigrant populations, and across all major racial and ethnic categories, the report further elaborated.

MPI said that despite a surge in the immigrant population during the 2009-2019 decade, poverty amongst the community declined from 9.6 million in 2009 to slightly less than 8 million a decade later in 2019.  The report found that the drop was 25 per cent to 18 per cent in the said period. Drop in poverty continued between 2019 to 2021 period and it went down from 18 per cent to 13 per cent. The significant decline in immigrants’ poverty rate was attributed to the introduction of large-scale government aid packages during the pandemic, in the report

According to the policy institute the decrease in poverty rate trend continued between 2019 and 2021, notwithstanding the economic turmoil generated by the pandemic, as the government at all levels introduced aid programs to blunt the financial harms.

The report highlighted that during the past decade, the proportion of immigrant adults without a high school education decreased and the share with a college degree surged. Significantly, the share of immigrant women in the workforce also grew while the size of immigrant families declined. The report reasoned, “the changing legal status composition of the immigrant population also likely contributed to poverty declines as shares of naturalized citizens and green-card holders rose while the unauthorized share of the foreign-born population fell from 28 percent to 23 percent between 2010 and 2019.”

“In short, the broad, somewhat surprising declines in poverty across the nation’s immigrant population likely result not only from the stronger social welfare policies and spending in recent years but also from the immigrant population’s changing characteristics and positive immigrant integration trends,” MPI researchers Jeanne Batalova and Michael Fix observed.

In 2021, 3.5 million children under age 18 lived in poverty as compared to 12.1 million in 2009. About 2 million of the 3.5 million children in poverty were U.S.-born children with only U.S.-born parents, down from 7.5 million in 2009; over the same period, the number of children of immigrants in poverty fell from 4.6 million to 1.5 million, researchers calculated.

MPI mapped the poverty decline rate among the racial and ethnic groups and noted some developments were poised to reverse some of the poverty declines, including the termination of pandemic-linked assistance, coming at a time of rising inflation. Part of the story will also turn on how well post-pandemic arrivals are integrated into U.S. society, according to a release on the report.

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