A Topic Every Investment Banker Loves – Poverty

Secretly, every investment banker loves to debate poverty.  In one way or another, finance is intricately connected with various poverty policies.

Because of this, and given that presidential politics are soon to take over dinner tables, here’s a look at poverty by U.S. president.

Before diving in, which U.S. president would you guess is best at reducing poverty?  Which president is the worst?

The Number of Individuals in Poverty President

The following graphic captures the number of individuals in poverty by U.S. president.

A couple of notes of explanation. The vertical axis counts the number of actual individuals estimated to be living in poverty. The horizontal axis captures the number of months into a given presidency. Each colored line is a given presidential administration.  The line starts when a given president took office (end of January following an election win).

Take one more guess before seeing the results.  Which president is the best “poverty fighter?”  Which president is the worst?

Surprisingly, although contrary to his political message, the worst U.S. president for poverty is President Obama. During Obama’s time in office, the number of individuals living in poverty is up a little over 2 million.

On the other end, the best U.S. president is Nixon.  During his administration, the number of individuals living in poverty declined by a little over 1 million.

Poverty by U.S. President

The figures are, of course, on an absolute basis, which may put more recent presidents on top because of population growth.  The next section looks at the poverty rate.

Presidential Poverty Rate

Here’s a look at the poverty rate by U.S. president.

Interestingly, of the presidents shown since the 1970s (earlier than 1970 requires more work on normalizing the results), the president with the worst results is, again, President Obama.  During the first 7 years of Obama’s administration, the poverty rate has floated around 15%, up a little over 1% since Obama took office.

And again, the president who saw the best poverty rate during his time in office was Nixon.  During Nixon’s time in office, the poverty rate got as low as 11%.

Poverty Rate by U.S. President


Overall, in inspecting the poverty figures recently released by the Census Bureau by U.S. president, interestingly, the least favorable American president for poverty improvement is President Obama.  During Obama’s time in office so far, another 2 million individuals have been added to the poverty roles, with the overall poverty rate increasing by about 1%.

The president that saw the best poverty rate during his tenure in office was President Nixon.  During his administration, the number of individuals living in poverty declined by about 1 million, with the poverty rate dropping by about 1%.

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