Record 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty: New census says the number of poor people in the U.S. is 3 million higher than the official count

  • Last government census recorded the  number of poor people across the country as 46.5 million
  • New figures say the real number is a  record-breaking 49.7 million
  • Results come as Congress continues to  negotiate further cuts of up to $4 billion annually for the food stamp  program
  • California, District of Columbia, Nevada  and Florida earmarked as having the highest shares of poor people per  state
  • Official list, however, says more rural  states have higher poverty levels, lead by Mississippi, Louisiana and New  Mexico

By  Ap Reporter

PUBLISHED: 22:57 EST, 6  November 2013 |  UPDATED: 22:58 EST, 6 November 2013

The number of poor people in America is 3  million higher than the official count, encompassing 1 in 6 residents due to  out-of-pocket medical costs and work-related expenses, according to a revised  census measure released Wednesday.

The new measure is aimed at providing a  fuller picture of poverty, but does not replace the official government numbers.

Put in place two years ago by the Obama  administration, it generally is considered more reliable by social scientists  because it factors in living expenses as well as the effects of government aid,  such as food stamps and tax credits.

Administration officials have declined to say  whether the new measure eventually could replace the official poverty formula,  which is used to allocate federal dollars to states and localities and to  determine eligibility for safety-net programs, such as Medicaid.

Congress would have to agree to adopt the new  measure, which generally would result in a higher poverty rate from year to year  and thus higher government payouts for aid programs.

Based on the revised formula, the number of  poor people in 2012 was 49.7 million, or 16 percent.

That exceeds the record 46.5 million, or 15  percent, that was officially reported in September.

1 in 6 Americans poor 

One of 49.7 million: A homeless woman sits on a street  in Chicago. New Census survey says the official rate of poverty in America is  astronomically higher than what is officially recorded


1 in 6 Americans poor 

Statistics: The new Census report details the factors  stopping people from getting out of poverty as well as the ones causing them to  fall into it


The latest numbers come as more working-age  adults picked up low-wage jobs in the slowly improving economy but still  struggled to pay living expenses.

Americans 65 and older had the largest  increases in poverty under the revised formula, from 9.1 percent to 14.8  percent, because of medical expenses such as Medicare premiums, deductibles and  other costs not accounted for in the official rate.

There also were increases for Hispanics and  Asian-Americans, partly due to lower participation among immigrants and  non-English speakers in government aid programs such as housing aid and food  stamps.

African-Americans and children, helped by  government benefits, had declines in poverty compared with the official rate.

‘This is a real incongruity, when 1 in 6  people face economic insecurity here in the richest country in the world,’ said  Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University economist and former chairman of the  White House Council of Economic Advisers, who has argued for more government  action to alleviate income inequality.

‘When so many citizens are worse off year  after year, with food insecurity and health care insecurity, there’s no way you  can say that’s a successful economy.’

Last week, more than 47 million Americans who  receive food stamps saw their benefits go down, while Congress began  negotiations on further cuts of up to $4 billion annually to the program.

1 in 6 Americans poor 

Elijah Brooks, 6, (left) and sister Elisha Brooks, 4,  (right) help their parents on an assembly line of food for the needy at the  Orange County Food Bank in Garden Grove, California. New figures say the state  has the highest level of poor people


Among states, California had the highest  share of poor people, hurt in part by high housing costs and large numbers of  immigrants, followed by the District of Columbia, Nevada and Florida.

Under the official poverty rate, more rural  states were more likely to be at the top of list, led by Mississippi, Louisiana  and New Mexico.

Some other findings were:

– Food stamps helped lift about 5 million  people above the poverty line. Without such aid, the overall poverty rate would  increase from 16 percent to 17.6 percent.

– Working-age adults ages 18-64 saw an  increase in poverty from 13.7 percent based on the official calculation to 15.5  percent, due mostly to commuting and child care costs.

– Child poverty declined from 22.3 percent to  18 percent under the new measure. Under both measures, children still remained  the age group most likely to be living in poverty.

– By race, Hispanics and Asians saw higher  rates of poverty, 27.8 percent and 16.7 percent respectively, compared with  rates of 25.8 percent and 11.8 percent under the official formula. In contrast,  African-Americans saw a modest decrease, from 27.3 percent to 25.8 percent based  on the revised numbers. Among non-Hispanic whites, poverty rose from 9.8 percent  to 10.7 percent.

‘The primary reason that poverty remains so  high is that the benefits of a growing economy are no longer being shared by all  workers as they were in the quarter-century following the end of World War II,’  said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan economist.

1 in 6 Americans poor 

Making it work: A street dweller uses the power outlet  of a vending machine to use his laptop outside a supermarket. A new study says  that 1 in 6 Americans are poor


‘Given current economic conditions, poverty  will not be substantially reduced unless government does more to help the  working poor and those who are willing to work but cannot find jobs. We must  also expand the reach of our safety-net programs.’

Economists long have criticized the official  poverty rate as inadequate. Based on a half-century-old government formula, the  official rate continues to assume the average family spends one-third of its  income on food.

Those costs have declined to a much smaller  share, more like one-seventh.

In reaction to some of the criticism, the  Obama administration in 2010 asked the Census Bureau to develop a new poverty  measure, based partly on recommendations made by the National Academy of  Sciences.

The goal is to help lawmakers better gauge  the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.

For instance, the new measure finds that if  it weren’t for Social Security payments, the poverty rate would rise to 54.7  percent for people 65 and older and 24.5 percent for all age groups.

Refundable tax credits such as the earned  income tax credit helped lift 9 million people above the poverty line. Without  the credits, child poverty would rise from 18 percent to 24.7  percent.

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