Since the Great Recession, poverty conditions in the Silver State have been a mixed bag of good and bad – good in that poverty rates have steadily trended downward for nearly a decade; bad in that poverty rates have remained above pre-Great Recession levels. The recently released 2020 poverty figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program added another year to Nevada’s poverty story, allowing for an additional glimpse into the progress in reducing the state’s poverty rate.

The official poverty rate – the most-widely referenced poverty-related metric in the United States – is the share of the population that lives below the poverty level, which is defined as the minimum income needed to meet basic needs. The poverty level is a calculation that changes based upon household-specific information – for example, the poverty-level income for households with two adults and two children was $26,246 in 2020, while the poverty-level income for households composed of a single adult under 65 years old was $13,465.

In 2020, Nevada had the 18th-highest poverty rate in the nation at 12.5 percent, which remained moderately higher than the national average of 11.9 percent. Nevada’s rate improved by 0.2 percentage points, continuing a yearslong downward trend from its 2012 peak. The state’s poverty rate surged to 16.2 percent that year, the 19th highest in the country for the year. The surge was a culmination of Great Recession-era economic hardships that saw Nevada’s impoverished population nearly double between 2007 and 2012. Even with the improvement since 2012, the state’s poverty rate has yet to return to its pre-Great Recession levels. In 2007, Nevada’s poverty rate was 10.6 percent, the 14th lowest in the nation and well below the national average of 13.0 percent. Prior to the financial crisis, poverty rates in the state averaged 10.4 percent between 1995 and 2007.

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