Associate Professor Shatakshee Dhongde’s article is the latest in a series of works on the subject and the first to break down multidimensional poverty at the state level over more than a decade.
Multidimensional poverty in the United States 2008-2019
New Research from the Associate Professor Shatakshee Dhongde in Georgia Tech School of Economics finds that people living in California, Texas and Florida were more likely than other US residents to experience multiple forms of deprivation, such as lack of access to health care or affordable housing. These multiple deprivations have combined to push many people into a state of poverty that has not been captured by official income-based measures.
Dhongde paperwritten with co-author Robert Haveman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is his latest in a series of works on the subject and the first to break down multidimensional poverty at the state level over more than a decade.
“It’s important because there was a lot of variation across states in how the Great Recession and subsequent recovery affected the multidimensional poor,” Dhongde said. “Now we can apply these lessons to Covid recovery efforts to help ensure policies are as effective as possible and reach the people who need them most.”
Geographical and demographic distribution
By analyzing data from 2008 to 2019, the researchers found that multidimensional poverty rose in the United States during the Great Recession from 2008 to 2010 and gradually declined until 2019.
The analysis showed that poverty among adults aged 18-65 was most prevalent in the South and West. At the height of the Great Recession in 2010, 20% of adults in Florida — more than two million people, according to census reports — were experiencing at least two deprivation measures. In Texas, 22% of adults, or almost 3.5 million people in total, were multidimensionally poor. However, the highest multidimensional poverty rate was in California, where more than 5.5 million adults – nearly one in four – were multidimensionally poor in 2010.
In the North, New York is an exception with a high rate of multidimensional poverty. At the same time, states such as Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Vermont had some of the lowest multidimensional poverty rates, at 5% to 6% of the population.
According to the researchers, the high rate of multidimensional poverty in California, Texas and Florida is partly explained by their large Hispanic populations. Hispanics living in the United States are much more likely to experience two or more poverty measures than other demographic groups, Dhongde and Haveman found. On average, they wrote, whites in the United States had the lowest multidimensional poverty rate at 10.4%, blacks and Asians had moderate rates at 14.8 and 16.5%, respectively, and Hispanics had the highest multidimensional poverty rates at 34.7%.
Little overlap with income deprivation
Surprisingly, the researchers found that having an income below the poverty line and multidimensional poverty (living with at least two of the six alternative deprivations) did not overlap significantly. According to the research, 13% of adults were multi-poor and about 12.5% were income poor. However, there was a small overlap between the two groups; only 5.5% were both income poor and multidimensionally poor.
Of the six deprivations studied, most of the multidimensional poor did not have health insurance and had no secondary education. They also faced a heavy housing load. “This strengthens our argument that income poverty often fails to capture deprivation in other dimensions affecting quality of life,” Dhongde and Haveman wrote.
Less surprisingly, “among individuals who were not income poor, deprivation was highest when individuals had incomes just above the poverty line,” the researchers found. They recommend expanding policies to help those living just above the poverty line as well as those below to help reduce multidimensional poverty in the United States.
Translating these lessons into Covid-19
The researchers also noted that immigrants were four times more likely to be multidimensionally poor than those born in the United States, and that multidimensional poverty rates were highest among children and young adults, single-parent families, and immigrants. Dhongde and Haveman speculate that these population groups are also the most likely to be socially and economically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the coming years, as the country recovers from the pandemic, it will be even more important to monitor multidimensional poverty in conjunction with income poverty in order to get a better idea of the impact on the quality of life of the population of a country,” they wrote.
Spatial and temporal trends in multidimensional poverty in the United States over the past decade have been published in Social Indicators Research: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-022-02902-z.
This article is the latest in Dhongde’s literature on the subject, which includes studies of multidimensional poverty duringthe covid pandemicduringthe great recession, among seniorsand throughracial and ethnic groups. His work has been featured on NPR, US News and World Report, Public Health Post, How Stuff Works and many other outlets.