By Renato Rocha, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy, UnidosUS
In the last year of the Obama Administration, Latinos made considerable progress across a range of economic indicators. The 2016 income and poverty data released by the U.S. Census Bureau yesterday showed that despite a number of remaining long-standing inequities, there were many bright spots for the Latino community. In total, about one million Latinos were lifted out of poverty last year. This isn’t just good news for the Latino community, it is good news for the nation. Latinos are over 56 million strong and contribute to our nation’s overall economic well-being.
The following three key trends highlight the progress that millions of Latinos made in 2016:
- Hispanic family income reached an all-time high in 2016: Hispanic median income increased to $47,675, an estimated 4.3 percent growth between 2015 and 2016.
- Nearly one million Latinos rose out of poverty in 2016: The Hispanic poverty rate dropped by an estimated two percentage points between 2015 and 2016, down to 19.4%. In total, approximately 996,000 Latinos were lifted out of poverty last year.. Latinos accounted for approximately 40% of the total population that climbed out of poverty between 2015 and 2016.
- Hispanic child poverty rate hit a record low in 2016: In 2016, the Hispanic child poverty rate dropped to an all-time low 26.6% from 28.9% in 2015. An estimated 4.9 million Latino children lived in poverty in 2016, about 400,000 less than in the previous year.
These hard-earned gains are encouraging but also threatened. The current budget being considered by the House of Representatives undermines federal anti-poverty programs by imposing unprecedented cuts to fund tax breaks for large corporations and wealthy individuals. Gutting these critical programs would have a devastating effect on the millions of Latinos who struggle to make ends meet. Recent UnidosUS research provides evidence of the strong effect of federal assistance programs on lifting millions of Latinos, especially children, out of poverty.
For example, in 2015:
- The Earned Income Tax Credit helped about 2.7 million Latinos get out of poverty, including 1.4 million children.
- The Child Tax Credit lifted an estimated 981,000 Latinos out of poverty, including 560,000 children.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, helped lift approximately 1.3 million Latinos out of poverty, including 640,000 children.
- Rental assistance lifted about 720,000 Latinos out of poverty, including 270,000 children.
- Supplemental Security Income raised an estimated 630,000 Latinos out of poverty, including 140,000 children.
The economic advances made in recent years are the result of targeted economic policies that invest in maintaining and increasing progress for everyone. As the Latino community continues to work hard and contribute to our nation’s workforce and prosperity, our elected officials must defend the progress made since the Great Recession. Any policy changes that reverse course on recent gains for Latinos will only fuel inequality and threaten the strength and vitality of our national economy.
Congress should approve a budget and support policies to strengthen assistance programs that help working families succeed and bolster the health of our economy.