According to one measure, child poverty in the U.S. dropped by nearly half in 2021.
The U.S. Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure -- which considers non-cash government assistance programs such as tax credits -- showed child poverty at 5.2%, down from 9.7% the year before.
A big part of that was the enhanced child tax credit, part of the American Rescue Planned signed into law in March of 2021. Without the extra tax credit the child poverty rate would have only fallen to 9.2%.
For the population as a whole, the Supplemental Poverty Measure was 7.8%, down from 9.2%.
The official U.S. government poverty rate -- which is based on cash income and resources -- was predictably higher at 15.3% for children and 11.6% for the overall population.
The gap shows how crucial non-cash assistance is to low-income families.
But the good news may not last. The enhanced child tax credit was only for 2021. Unless Congress extends it child poverty as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure will undoubtably rise again.
One group that didn't fare well in 2021 was senior citizens. Their supplemental poverty rate rose to 10.7% from 9.5%. The Census Bureau says elders' fixed incomes simply are not keeping up with inflation.
Helping Americans most vulnerable to poverty -- children and seniors -- should be a federal priority. We now the enhanced child tax credit works. And we know ensuring Social Security benefits keep up with inflation would be a big help. But will our elected officials look at the data and take needed action?