Friday, November 4, 2011

The problems with poverty statistics

The U.S. Census Bureau's September report saying that poverty is soaring may have been "off the mark."

The New York Times explains:

Concocted on the fly a half-century ago, the official poverty measure ignores ever more of what is happening to the poor person’s wallet — good and bad. . . .

[S]afety-net programs have played a large and mostly overlooked role in restraining hardship: as much as half of the reported rise in poverty since 2006 disappears.
The Times also says the Census Bureau's report ignored the fact that "rents are higher in places like Manhattan than they are in Mississippi."

There are "fewer people in abject destitution, but a great many more crowding the hard-luck ranks of the near poor, who do not qualify for many benefit programs."

The Census Bureau will release a new report on Monday, hopefully correcting some of these errors.

This other New York Times piece looks at other measures of poverty from the past few years. Some of the findings:

Poverty is declining among women ages 25-39.

Five million children in America have risen out of poverty in the past 10 years.

Poverty is declining among Hispanics, and declining dramatically among blacks. Poverty is increasing among Asians.

Poverty is decreasing in rural areas and increasing in urban areas.

Poverty appears to be increasing among the elderly, but this "could be a statistical anomaly. Many elderly people use retirement savings but do not report that money as income."