Poverty fell steeply among immigrants in the U.S. after the Great Recession and even further during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the Migration Policy Institute.

The study analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data to measure the way economic trends, immigration growth and federal assistance programs helped reduce poverty among immigrants. The report defines immigrants as people who were not American citizens at birth, including refugees, asylees, legal permanent residents and those in the country without authorization.

“Despite an increase in the total number of immigrants nationwide over the decade, the number of immigrants experiencing poverty fell from more than 9.6 million in 2009 to slightly less than 8 million in 2019, and the share of immigrants in poverty fell from 25% to 18%.”

The trend continued from 2019 to 2021, with the number of immigrants in the grips of poverty falling from 8 million to 6.1 million, and the rate plummeting from 18% to 13%, MPI reported.

“Behind the 2019–21 declines were massive new and expanded income support and transfer programs that the federal, state and local governments introduced to blunt the economic impacts of the public-health crisis,” the report states. “The pandemic-driven aid programs included three rounds of stimulus payments and expansions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also called food stamps), the Child Tax Credit, and unemployment insurance.”

MPI said its analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure found striking declines in poverty among both U.S.-born and immigrant children.


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