Census data shows Tennessee poverty rates fell but stagnated compared to the national average
Tennessee’s poverty rates fell at roughly the same pace as in the rest of the United States, data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week showed.
For the past decade, Tennessee has seen a fall in its overall and childhood poverty rates often outpacing the U.S. average. But in 2022, that changed as the gap between the two rates stagnated.
The data for 2022 follows a pattern in Tennessee, in which poverty rates decrease at a faster rate than the national average for 2-3 years and then slow down for one.
Overall, the state has also significantly improved its census-measured poverty rates. In 2013, the Census Bureau estimated that 26.5% of Tennessee children lived in poverty, while last year, it was 17.6%.
The trend is on par with the nation, which has seen a similar drop, but Tennessee’s has fallen slightly faster.
The U.S. Census Bureau classifies poverty as a family of four whose income is below $29,678 and for an individual below $14,880. Critics have often called these thresholds too low and point to flaws in the measure for not accounting for the different costs of living across states and cities.
COVID-19 relief funds helped lower poverty rates in 2021 and 2022, but most of those relief expired over the past year.
The U.S. Census Bureau found nationwide that when government assistance programs are accounted for, the poverty rate nationwide increased from 7.8% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022.
The U.S. Census does not release state-by-state numbers for poverty factoring in government assistance programs.
This increase was even sharper for children because of the expiration of the $250-$300 monthly child tax payments sent to families for part of 2021. The poverty rate among children in the U.S. increased from 5.4% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022.