US far from achieving first SDG to end poverty

The country, which is likely to miss 12 of 17 goals under the 2030 agenda, may take another 40 years to eradicate poverty going by its current pace

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Monday 12 August 2019

It has been five years since United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), but the United States of America seems to be struggling to achieve all of the 17 SDGs, especially the first one — ending poverty.

US President Donald Trump recently applauded the government for pulling 1 million people out of poverty in a year, but the country still has 39.7 million poor people. Going by Trump’s claim, the US will take another 40 years to end poverty.

While the US managed to cut the number of people living in poverty by 0.9 million between 2016 and 2017, the number of poverty-stricken people was not statistically different from 2016, according to the latest US Census Bureau report.

This means that the observed difference between two estimates is “likely due to chance and is not statistically significant”.

In fact, more than one in eight Americans is considered “officially poor” and a third of these are children.

A closer look at the Census showed that the rate of poverty alleviation has been slowing down in the US since 2014. The poverty rate reduced by 1.3 percentage points between 2014 and 2015 and 0.4 percentage point between 2016 and 2017.

The largest decline in the poverty rate was recorded between 1965 and 1966 when it decreased by 2.6 percentage points to 14.7 per cent in 1966 from 17.3 per cent in 1965. Around 4.7 million were lifted out of poverty during the period.

According to the American Community Survey (ACS), that covered 29,000 places in the US, while poverty declined in 2,016 places (6.8 percent) between 2008-2012 period and 2013-2017 period, it increased in 2,215 places (7.5 percent).

Todd County, Oglala Lakota County and Holmes County are the regions with the highest poverty rates in the country.

In fact none of populous US cities are on track to achieve the SDGs. They lag in reducing hunger and providing clean energy. 

The country is off track in 12 of the 17 goals. Of these, its progress has stagnated in four, which include climate action, reduced inequalities, life under water and partnerships for the goals. In the rest of the eight goals, the progress made by the US is insufficient in attaining the SDGs.

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