New measure raises American poor to 49 million

November 8th, 2011 - 7:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 8 (IANS) By American standards, more than 49 million or 16 percent of the people in the world’s richest nation were living in poverty in 2010 under an alternative measure released by the Census Bureau.

The official rate, released in September, showed 46.6 million people, or 15.2 percent, living in poverty. Under the new measure, the poverty threshold for a family with two adults and two children in 2010 was $24,343, while the official threshold is $22,113.

The Census Bureau’s first supplemental poverty measure includes various government benefits and expenses not captured by the official poverty rate, according to CNN.

It also takes into account geographic differences in prices and the impact of many forms of non-cash public assistance, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and energy assistance.

The new measure had a major impact on poverty rates among the elderly, in part because they have large medical expenses. Some 15.9 percent of senior citizens are considered poor, up from 9 percent under the official rate.

Fewer children, however, are living in poverty under the supplemental measure because they benefit from many government assistance programmes and the earned income tax credit. The level drops to 18.2 percent, down from 22.5 percent.

Under the new measure, the poverty rate among blacks fell to 25.4 percent, down from 27.5 percent. But more whites, Asians and Hispanics are impoverished.

Americans who live in metropolitan areas have higher poverty rates under the supplemental measure, while the opposite occurs for those who lives outside of them. That’s partially because the new report adjusts for geographical differences in prices.

Both the official and supplemental measure show the impact of the Great Recession on the poor. The poverty rate soared to its highest level since 1993 under the official calculation. The supplemental measure, meanwhile, showed poverty increasing to 16 percent of the population, up from 15.3 percent in 2009.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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