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16 Percent of Americans Live in Poverty

Joseph Hines

Poverty’s up, but still ignored. The drumbeat of evidence shows that it remains, despite the recovery, persistently high. The official Census poverty measure this summer found a record 15 percent of Americans living in poverty. But, as expected, that lowballs it. The official measure, which hasn’t been updated in fifty years, is inadequate.

The more accurate measure is worse than the headline number. The supplemental poverty measure for 2011, which accounts for cash transfer programs and modern household expenses and medical costs, shows that 16 percent of Americans live in poverty. That means the official poverty measure leaves out 3.5 million people.