The Alternative Poverty Measure: How and Why Census Developed It
The Census Bureau recently issued a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) that uses a wider range of factors than the official measure to account for people’s living expenses and their financial resources. The bureau’s official measure set the 2010 poverty line for a two-adult, two-child family at $22,113 while the supplemental measure sets it at $24,343. Our backgrounder on the supplemental measure explores the history of the federal government’s effort to measure poverty, why there was a need for an alternative measure, and how its methodology impacts different demographic groups. Read more
THE LIE: Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income
WASHINGTON (AP) – Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans, almost 1 in 2, have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
The latest census data depict a middle class that is shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.
“Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too ‘rich’ to qualify,” said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.
“The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal,” he said. “If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.”
Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?
Abstract: For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty,” but the bureau’s definition of poverty differs widely from that held by most Americans. In fact, other government surveys show that most of the persons whom the government defines as “in poverty” are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term. The overwhelming majority of the poor have air conditioning, cable TV, and a host of other modern amenities. They are well housed, have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food, and have met their other basic needs, including medical care. Some poor Americans do experience significant hardships, including temporary food shortages or inadequate housing, but these individuals are a minority within the overall poverty population. Poverty remains an issue of serious social concern, but accurate information about that problem is essential in crafting wise public policy. Exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, thereby hampering the development of well-targeted, effective programs to reduce the problem.
Each year for the past two decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty.” In recent years, the Census has reported that one in seven Americans are poor. But what does it mean to be “poor” in America? How poor are America’s poor?
Census Does a Number on Poverty Stats
Headlines are full of the new Census statistics on poverty. By the Bureau’s calculations, an eye-popping number of Americans–one in two–now fall in “poor” or “low income” category. While there’s no disputing the hardship families are facing, there is some disputing the formula that officials used to arrive at their conclusion. According to reports, the Census Bureau based its numbers on a new “supplemental measure… that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty.” Unfortunately, that “fuller picture” is a manipulation of the facts. Officials are now defining “low-income” Americans as earning almost 200% above the poverty level. No wonder half the country qualifies! Two hundred percent of the poverty level may not be a lavish income, but it’s certainly a livable one. Also, income is just one measure of economic stability. A person’s total compensation (medical benefits, 401K plans, having a gym at work, etc.) is rarely factored in to federal measurements even though these non-salary benefits are included in most employment packages.
This isn’t meant to minimize the real struggles of some families, but it is important to understand the agenda at work. President Obama and his liberal allies can’t accomplish their socialistic goals without expanding the definition of poverty. By casting a wider net on low-income people, he makes his “redistribution of wealth” mantra more attractive and stokes the fires of class warfare. In the end, the administration is trying to justify the expansion of government programs–which is ironic, since they’re clearly failing to keep people out of poverty! Washington will never eliminate suffering by creating more government, and a redefinition of standards won’t change that. http://www.frc.org/