New Census definition of poverty behind the rise of poverty in the US?

While media outlets have spread the recent news from the Census Bureau that poverty has increased in the United States, some conservatives question whether this is a true change or reflects a change in the measurement of poverty:

The new Census measure suggests that the ranks of the poor – at 49 million – are 3 million larger than previously thought. The increase comes in the new way poverty is measured. The new Census report for the first time includes government subsidies and benefits such as food stamps as a part of household income, but it also factors in rising costs, such as health-care expenses. The result creates a new poverty line and a new view of who in the US is poor.

The new threshold for poverty for family of four, for example, is $24,343, as opposed to $22,113. And the revision reveals greater poverty trends among Asians, Hispanics, whites, and the elderly, and declining poverty for blacks and children, who tend to be greater beneficiaries of food stamps…

Sociologists say the new numbers give greater nuance to the portrait of poverty in the US, highlighting the degree to which government programs are keeping struggling Americans afloat. Critics counter the numbers are engineered precisely to make government assistance appear indispensable and to pave the way for a broader redistribution of American wealth toward the poor…

The Census changes are the first revisions to how the poverty rate is calculated since 1963. Since then, it has been gauged solely by cash income per household. But the new figures give a larger sense of what impact government spending has on poverty, says Timothy Smeeding, an economist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Can’t really say I’m surprised that these figures are politicized. But, then again, the measurement of poverty has been a contentious topic for decades.

0 thoughts on “New Census definition of poverty behind the rise of poverty in the US?

  1. Pingback: “Startling” number of “near poor” in the United States | Legally Sociable

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