After a temporary reprieve, poverty and hardship are increasing
At first , a remarkable thing happended in the midst of an epidemic and the lockdown-induced recession. Poverty declined in America. A gargantuan stimulus package, which sent most households one-off cheques worth $1,200 or more and topped up unemployment benefits by $600 a week, buoyed millions of families above the official poverty line (set at $21,720 for a family of three). Ariel Kalil, a developmental psychologist at the University of Chicago, was conducting a long-running study on parental behaviour among poor parents (mostly single mothers) of young children in the city before the pandemic struck. Surveying these parents again when families were somewhat protected from the economic shock, she found parents and children getting along better despite the added stress from job losses.
最初，在疫情和封锁引发的经济衰退期间，发生了一件引人注目的事情。美国的贫困人口不升反降。一项庞大的经济计划使数百万家庭漂浮在贫困线以上（三口之家的贫困线为 21720美元），这项计划就是给为大多数家庭提供价值1200美元或更多的一次性支票，并且使失业救济金每周增加了600美元。美国芝加哥大学的一位发展心理学家 Ariel Kalil ，正在进行一项关于在这座城市疫情来临之前有孩子的贫穷父母的家长行为的长期研究（大多数是单亲妈妈）。当这些家庭在一定程度上从疫情冲击中恢复时，他又做了一次调查，发现尽管失业压力增加，但父母和孩子相处的更好了。
Those supports expired in July, even as the pandemic persisted. And the reprieve proved transient. By August, poverty levels had nearly returned to their pre-pandemic levels. Other measures of hardship—like difficulties in affording food and housing—are at eye-popping levels, especially for less-educated workers and non-Asian minorities. The consequences for poor children might become apparent years from now in the form of reduced education, earnings and opportunity. With schooling, a theoretically equalising force, still disrupted and no vaccine yet, how can the extent of the damage be assessed?
Poverty measurement is usually a staid and slow affair. The Census Bureau issues an official number once a year. Using data from the monthly unemployment survey, however, economists have recently developed a procedure for generating timelier estimates to give real-time feedback. “We can explain the entire decline in poverty from April to June by the stimulus package,” says Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago. His recent work, published with James X. Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame and Jeehoon Han of Zhejiang University, shows a nearly 15% drop in the poverty rate that then reversed after the stimulus lapsed (see chart 1). As before the pandemic struck, these rates are higher for African Americans, workers without college degrees and children.
贫困指标，通常是一个保守而又缓慢的事情。人口普查局每年发布一次官方数据。不过，使用的数据是每月的失业调查结果，经济学家最近开发了一种程序，可以产生更及时的评估，以提供真实的反馈。 美国芝加哥大学的 Bruce Meyer 说道：”我们可以用经济刺激计划来解释，为何4-6月的贫困人口减少。“他最近的一项研究，浙江大学的 Jeehoon Han 和圣母大学的 James X. Sullivan 共同发表的文章显示，将近 15% 的贫困率下降在刺激计划结束之后开始逆转。在疫情爆发之前，这个比率在美国黑人、没有大学学位的工人和孩子们中间更高。
The Census Bureau has a new, more frequent survey which is designed to measure food insecurity, housing instability and other forms of distress. Among households with children, 14.4% reported not having enough to eat sometimes or often in the preceding seven days. For black and Hispanic households, this share rises to above 22%. Among those making less than $25,000 a year (and probably counting as officially poor), 35% report difficulty meeting this most basic need. These figures are high despite increased private and public attempts at relief. Food banks have reported operating at double capacity, and sometimes more. To compensate for children no longer receiving subsidised lunches at school, the federal government launched a programme to top up the nutrition-assistance benefits (“food stamps”, colloquially) for affected families. Though this amounted to just $5.70 per day of school missed, a recent analysis of that policy, published by the Hamilton Project, found that it reduced food hardship among children by 30%.