Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK General Election BBC Exit Polls Forecast Accuracy - Nadeem_Walayat
2.UK General Election 2017 Seats Final Forecast, Labour, Conservative Lib-Dem, SNP - Nadeem_Walayat
3.UK General Election 2017 Forecast: Conservative 358, Labour 212 Seats - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Theresa May to Resign, Fatal Error Was to Believe Worthless Opinion Polls! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.UK House Prices Forecast General Election 2017 Conservative Seats Result - Nadeem_Walayat
6.The Stock Market Crash of 2017 That Never Was But Could it Still Come to Pass? - Sol_Palha
7.[TRADE ALERT] Write This Gold Stock Ticker Down Now - WallStreetNation
8.UK General Election Results Map 2017 vs 2015 vs Opinion Polls - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Orphaned Poisoned Waters,Severe Chronic Water Shortage Imminent - Richard_Mills
10.How The Smart Money Is Playing The Lithium Boom - OilPrice_Com
Last 7 days
Mainstream Media Feeding Frenzy in the Echo Chamber - 28th Jun 17
The Fed Has Undermined the US Economy’s Ability to Grow - 28th Jun 17
“Secular Stagnation” Is Nonsense… Here’s the Real Reason Behind the US Downturn - 28th Jun 17
Sheffield Broomhall Hanover Flats Tower Block Cladding Could Take Months to Remove! - 28th Jun 17
Shrinkflation In UK – Real Inflation Much Higher Than Reported - 28th Jun 17
Are the UK Elections a Forgone Conclusion? - 28th Jun 17
Is the Tech Stock Market Bloodbath is Finally Here? - 28th Jun 17
Crude Oil Sinks 20%: Why "Oversupply" Isn't the Half of It - 28th Jun 17
Important Money Management Tips For Teenagers - 28th Jun 17
The Coming Battery Bonanza - 28th Jun 17
Overlooked Stock Investments To Keep An Eye On in 2017 - 27th Jun 17
The Federal Reserve And Drug Addiction – A Prediction - 27th Jun 17
Charts Show Why Emerging Markets Will Be an Essential Part of Your Portfolio Going Forward - 27th Jun 17
Former Lehman Brothers Trader: I Bet My Reputation That Stocks Bubble Will Pop In A Year - 27th Jun 17
US Bonds and Related Market Indicators - 27th Jun 17
Stocks At Record Highs: Market Sentiment Still Bullish - 27th Jun 17
Stock Market Running Out of Steam - 27th Jun 17
Gold Back With A Vengeance As Bitcoin Bubble Bursts - 26th Jun 17
Crude Oil Trade & Nasdaq QQQ Update - 26th Jun 17
Gold and Silver Ongoing Consolidation May End Soon - 25th Jun 17
Dollar May Become “Local Currency of the U.S.” Only - 25th Jun 17
Sheffield Great Flood of 2007, 10 Years On - Unique Timeline of What Happened - 24th Jun 17
US Stock Market Correction Could be Underway - 24th Jun 17
Proof That This Economic Recovery Narrative is False - 24th Jun 17
Best Cash ISA for Soaring Inflation, Kent Reliance Illustrates the Great ISA Rip Off - 24th Jun 17
Gold Summer Doldrums - 23rd Jun 17
Hedgers Net Short the Euro, US Market Rotates; 2 Horsemen Set to Ride? - 23rd Jun 17
Nether Edge By Election Result: Labour Win Sheffield City Council Seat by 132 Votes - 23rd Jun 17
Grenfell Fire: 600 of 4000 Tower Blocks Ticking Time Bomb Death Traps! - 22nd Jun 17
Car Sales About To Go Over The Cliff - 22nd Jun 17
LOG 0.786 support in CRUDE OIL and COCOA - 22nd Jun 17
More Stock Market Fluctuations Along New Record Highs - 22nd Jun 17
Understanding true money, Pound Sterling must make another historic low, Euro and Gold outlook! - 22nd Jun 17
Green Party Could Control Sheffield City Council Balance of Power Local Election 2018 - 22nd Jun 17
Ratio Combo Charts : Hidden Clues to the Gold Market Puzzle - 22nd Jun 17
Steem Hard Forks & Now People Are Making Even More Money On Blockchain Steemit - 22nd Jun 17
4 Steps for Comparing Binary Options Providers - 22nd Jun 17
Nether Edge & Sharrow By-Election, Will Labour Lose Safe Council Seat, Sheffield? - 21st Jun 17
Stock Market SPX Making New Lows - 21st Jun 17
Your Future Wealth Depends on what You Decide to Keep and Invest in Now - 21st Jun 17
Either Bitcoin Will Fail OR Bitcoin Is A Government Invention Meant To Enslave... - 21st Jun 17
Strength in Gold and Silver Mining Stocks and Its Implications - 21st Jun 17
Inflation is No Longer in Stealth Mode - 21st Jun 17
CRUDE OIL UPDATE- “0.30 risk is cheap for changing implication!” - 20th Jun 17
Crude Oil Verifies Price Breakdown – Or Is It Something More? - 20th Jun 17
Trump Backs ISIS As He Pushes US Onto Brink of World War III With Russia - 20th Jun 17
Most Popular Auto Trading Tools for trading with Stock Markets - 20th Jun 17
GDXJ Gold Stocks Massacre: The Aftermath - 20th Jun 17
Why Walkers Crisps Pay Packet Promotion is RUBBISH! - 20th Jun 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The MRI 3D Report

Collapse in American Living Standards, More Poverty By Any Measure

Politics / Social Issues Jul 14, 2010 - 04:56 AM GMT

By: Global_Research

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleChristine Vestal writes: More than 15 million Americans are unemployed, homelessness has increased by 50 percent in some cities, and 38 million people are receiving food stamps, more than at any time in the program’s almost 50-year history.

Evidence of rising economic hardship is ample. There’s one commonly used standard for measuring it: the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty rate. It guides much of federal and state spending aimed at helping those unable to make a decent living.


But a number of states have become convinced that the federal figures actually understate poverty, and have begun using different criteria in operating state-based social programs. At the same time, conservative economists are warning that a change in the formula to a threshold that counts more people as poor could lead to an unacceptable increase in the cost of federal and state social service programs.

When Census publishes new numbers for 2009 in September, experts predict they’ll show a steep rise in the poverty rate. One independent researcher estimates the data will show the biggest year-to-year increase in recorded history.

According to Richard Bavier, a former analyst for the federal Office of Management and Budget, already available data about employment rates, wages, and food stamp enrollment suggest that an additional 5.7 million people were officially poor in 2009. That would bring the total number of people with incomes below the federal poverty threshold to more than 45 million. The poverty rate, Bavier expects, will hit 15 percent — up from 13.2 percent in 2008, when the Great Recession first started to take its toll.

Still, the U.S. Census Bureau’s new numbers will offer only a partial picture of how the nation’s sputtering economy is affecting the poorest Americans — a problem state officials and the Obama administration want to address.

Overestimating food costs

The current formula for setting the federal poverty line — unchanged since 1963 — takes the cost of food for an individual or family and multiplies the number by three, under the assumption that people spend one-third of their incomes putting meals on the table. While the formula may have been a good way to estimate a subsistence cost of living in the early 1960s, experts say food now represents only one-eighth of a typical household budget, with expenses such as housing and child care putting increasing pressure on struggling families.

In addition, the official measure fails to account for regional differences in the cost of housing, it doesn’t include medical expenses or transportation, and at $22,000 for a family of four, the poverty line is considered by many to be simply too low.

Equally worrisome for policy makers is the Census Bureau’s failure to consider in-kind federal and state aid in calculating income. The existing formula counts only pre-tax cash income, leaving out such benefits as food stamps, housing vouchers and child-care subsidies, as well as federal and state tax credits for the working poor. 

As a result, the nation’s official poverty count is unaffected by the billions spent on safety-net programs. Yet it remains by far the most frequently used measurement of how well governments are taking care of their most vulnerable citizens.

Conservatives have consistently argued that if safety-net programs were taken into account, the poverty rate would be much lower. At the same time, advocates for the poor have argued that poverty counts would be much higher if the cost of housing, child care and other expenses were factored in.

Nearly two decades ago, Congress asked the National Academies of Science (NAS) to revisit the official poverty measure and come up with recommendations for a new measure that would satisfy critics on both ends of the spectrum. 

This past March, the Obama administration said it would use the NAS 1995 guidelines to update the federal government’s poverty calculation and promised to unveil the first new “supplemental poverty measure” in September of 2011.

“The new supplemental poverty measure will provide an alternative lens to understand poverty and measure the effects of anti-poverty policies,” Under Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said. “Moreover, it will be dynamic and will benefit from improvements over time based on new data and new methodologies.”

Under the NAS recommendations, Commerce Department expenditure data for food, clothing, shelter and other household expenses would be used to set a poverty threshold for a reference family of four — two adults and two children. Then a family or individual’s resources would be compared to that line by including income and in-kind benefits, with taxes and other non-discretionary expenses, such as medical expenses and child care, excluded.

Because many expect the new calculation will result in a higher poverty count, the March announcement met with fiery criticism from some conservatives who charged the federal government could ill afford to increase its safety-net spending.

State experiments

But state and local policy makers applauded the move because they said it would give them the tools they need to assess the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.

In New York City, for example, where an NAS-type poverty measure was adopted three years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the new data would allow the city to pinpoint who needs assistance most and which of the city’s social services have been most effective at improving its residents’ standard of living.

Using an updated measurement, New York City found that children — the recipients of a broad range of social welfare programs — were less poor than originally thought, while elders, who were struggling with previously unaccounted for medical expenses, were poorer.

As states become increasingly challenged by shrinking revenues and rising numbers of people in need, more than a dozen have set up commissions to help low-income families and many have set poverty reduction goals.

Among them, Minnesota and Connecticut have used NAS-like formulas to assess the effectiveness of current and proposed anti-poverty measures.

With technical assistance from the public policy research group The Urban Institute, both states used the results to support aggressive anti-poverty campaigns. Minnesota has a Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020, and Connecticut created a Child Poverty and Prevention Council with the goal of cutting child poverty in half by 2014.

Connecticut found only a slight increase in the number of people living in poverty when using the updated calculation — 21,000 people in 2006, compared to 20,000 using the existing Census measure.

But it got very different results when determining which public assistance programs did the most to reduce poverty. Under previous assumptions, child care subsidies and adult education and job training were seen as the most highly effective at moving people out of poverty over time. But the new formula showed that increasing enrollment in programs such as food stamps, energy assistance and subsidized housing was a more effective way to reduce child poverty in the near term. As a result, the state redoubled its outreach efforts to sign up as many low-income families as possible for these federally-funded programs.

In Minnesota, where the results were similar, a bipartisan legislative committee recommended the state refine its definition of poverty, build public awareness, and carefully monitor the impact of all major legislation on existing anti-poverty programs.

Both states joined 12 others earlier this year in calling on the federal government to adopt an NAS-like formula that would “consider the increased financial burden of housing, child care, and health care on the modern American family while recognizing the benefit of critical work supports such as tax credits, food stamps, and other non-cash subsidies.”

The administration’s supplemental poverty measure remains controversial, and some leaders on both ends of the political spectrum are urging Congress and the administration not to adopt the new formula for purposes of allocating federal funding or determining individual eligibility anytime soon.

If used to parse federal grants among states, it could radically change the amount of money each state receives. It stands to reason, for example, that a family of four trying to make it on $22,000 would have an easier time in rural Alabama than they would in suburban Massachusetts. And should the new measure be used to set individual eligibility for safety net programs, some are fearful that current recipients would be disqualified if all of their federal and state benefits were counted.

For the Obama administration, the Census Bureau’s current measure is problematic because it will fail to show the benefits of at least $100 billion in 2009 stimulus money spent for low-income families.  Even so, as those direct subsidies and other job-creating federal funds are phased out, advocates expect the poverty rate will shoot up again next year, when the data is in for 2010.

Stateline

Contact Christine Vestal at cvestal@stateline.org

Global Research Articles by Christine Vestal

© Copyright Christine Vestal , Global Research, 2010

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.


© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife