Tag: Hockey Stick

The Poverty Hockey Stick


A few years ago I came across a plot of the poverty rate for US families from the year 1959 to 2011. Surprise! It’s a “hockey stick” plot with a well-defined blade covering over a decade of rapid change, and a decades-long “handle” in which the rate bobbles around a bit but shows no clear long-term trend. I’ve replotted it below, but you can find the same chart (minus the red- and blue-dashed lines, which I’ll describe below, and with recessions marked in) on Page 32 of the US Census Bureau publication titled “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011”.

Poverty-Rate-FittedIn the “blade,” which runs from the beginning of the data in 1959 up to some time around 1970, poverty declined steadily at a rate of about 1% per year. Then the “handle” begins, and the decline in poverty ends. Instead, the poverty rate bobbles around 10% or so, and perhaps rises very slowly as the decades pass.