On Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its report on the nation’s income, poverty and health-insurance coverage for 2018. News that the percentage of Americans with insurance took a troubling stumble — the largest since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 — was the angle that most interested front-page editors.
But one other tree in the Census forest of graphs and tables should have been an eye-catcher: Poverty in single-mother households sank to its lowest rate … ever. What’s more, the decline took place entirely among black and Hispanic single-mother families.
For those plugged in to debates about welfare reform and child poverty over the past 20-plus years, this is a “Wow!” moment. In 2018, median income for households headed by women with “no spouse present” increased by a robust 5.8%. The poverty rates for female-householder black families dropped 2.7 percentage points, while the rate for Hispanic families plunged 4 percentage points, to 31.1%, in 2018.
For blacks in female-householder families, the proportion with family incomes less than $25,000 decreased by 4.1 percentage points, while for Hispanics in female-householder families, the proportion dropped by 3 points.
More black and Hispanic women have jobs and are working more hours. “The rise in full-time, year-round work led to an increase in incomes and earnings at the household level,” the Census Bureau found.
Better yet, the growing number of hours worked by single mothers led to a decline in child poverty of 2.5 percentage points. That comes out to 649,000 fewer poor American children.
Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. She is the author of the book, The New Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here. This piece was adapted from City Journal.