Immigrants and Poverty

Robert Samuelson makes the point I made here:

The standard story is that poverty is stuck; superficially, the

statistics support that. The poverty rate measures the share of

Americans below the official poverty line, which in 2006 was $20,614

for a four-person household. Last year, the poverty rate was 12.3

percent, down slightly from 12.6 percent in 2005 but higher than the

recent low, 11.3 percent in 2000. It was also higher than the 11.8

percent average for the 1970s. So the conventional wisdom seems amply


It isn't. Look again at the numbers. In 2006, there were 36.5

million people in poverty. That's the figure that translates into the

12.3 percent poverty rate. In 1990, the population was smaller, and

there were 33.6 million people in poverty, a rate of 13.5 percent. The

increase from 1990 to 2006 was 2.9 million people (36.5 million minus

33.6 million). Hispanics accounted for all of the gain.


From 1990 to 2006, the number of poor Hispanics increased 3.2 million,

from 6 million to 9.2 million. Meanwhile, the number of non-Hispanic

whites in poverty fell from 16.6 million (poverty rate: 8.8 percent) in

1990 to 16 million (8.2 percent) in 2006. Among blacks, there was a

decline from 9.8 million in 1990 (poverty rate: 31.9 percent) to 9

million (24.3 percent) in 2006. White and black poverty has risen

somewhat since 2000 but is down over longer periods

This is not a ding on immigration, as readers will know I am a supporter of open immigration.  But it is an important context to have when evaluating poverty numbers.  The drop in black poverty in these numbers is an ENORMOUS piece of good news that I bet you have not read anywhere.