Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Bitcoin War Begins – Bitcoin Cash Rises 50% While Bitcoin Drops $1,000 In 24 Hours - Jeff_Berwick
2.Fragile Stock Market Bull in a China Shop -James_Quinn
3.Sheffield Leafy Suburbs Tree Felling's Triggering House Prices CRASH! - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Bank of England Hikes UK Interest Rates 100%, Reversing BREXIT PANIC Cut! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Government Finances and Gold - Cautionary Tale told in Four Charts - Michael_J_Kosares
6.Gold Stocks Winter Rally - Zeal_LLC
7.The Stock Market- From Here to Infinity? - Plunger
8.Ethereum (ETH/USD) – bullish breakout of large symmetrical triangle looks to be getting closer - MarketsToday
9.Electronic Gold: The Deep State’s Corrupt Threat to Human Prosperity and Freedom - Stewart_Dougherty
10.Finally, The Fall Of The House Of Saud - Jim_Willie_CB
Last 7 days
Gold Bullish on US Fed Interest Rate Hike - 16th Dec 17
The LORAX Explains What Happened to Sheffield's Street Trees 2017 - 16th Dec 17
Bitcoin Trading Alert: Bitcoin Pauses – Will Appreciation Follow? - 16th Dec 17
SanDisk Ultra 128gb 100mbs Micro SD Card for Smartphone's Speed Test - 15th Dec 17
Inflation is Spiking Globally… Bond Bubble Bursts in 3… 2… - 15th Dec 17
Sheffield's 'Real' LORAX Defending the Trees From the Labour City Council Patrol Units - 15th Dec 17
Stock Market Decline Signals are Near - 15th Dec 17
Santa Is Putting Christmas On The Blockchain And Saving Billions - 14th Dec 17
The Unprotected, the Protected, the Vulnerably Protected Classes—Which Are You? - 14th Dec 17
Gold’s Upside Target - 14th Dec 17
Year-end US Interest Rate Hike Again Proves To Be Launchpad For Gold Price - 14th Dec 17
2 Charts That Might Define the Fed’s Jerome Powell Era - 13th Dec 17
UK Stagflation Risk As Inflation Hits 3.1% and House Prices Fall - 13th Dec 17
Stock Market Elliott Wave Forecasts - Is the World coming to the end? - 13th Dec 17
A Method Traders Can Use to Confirm an Elliott Wave Count - 13th Dec 17
Best Time / Month of Year to BUY a USED Car is DECEMBER, UK Analysis - 13th Dec 17
A Former Wall Street Veteran: Good Traders Are Born, Not Trained - 12th Dec 17
Buy Gold, Silver Time After Speculators Reduce Longs and Banks Reduce Shorts to Continue? - 12th Dec 17
Masters of Economic and Political Illusion – in Taxes, Debt, Government, and Markets - 12th Dec 17
Approved Used Land Rover Main Dealer Real Customer Buying Guide - Hunters, Chester - 12th Dec 17
Gold Price 100% Bullish Signal - 12th Dec 17
Epic Stock Market & Fixed Income Bubble Will Not End Well - 12th Dec 17
Bitcoin can be stolen. Although Can’t be hacked - 11th Dec 17
Have Stocks Reached A Permanently Rigged Plateau? - 11th Dec 17
Trying To Beat The System Is A Fatally Flawed Investment Strategy - 11th Dec 17
Is This The Beginning Of The Next Silver Rush? - 11th Dec 17
The Dow Gold Ratio - 11th Dec 17
Evidence of a Stock Market Top Mounting - 10th Dec 17
Bitcoin Doesn’t Exist – Forks and Mad Max - 10th Dec 17
Bitcoin Doesn’t Exist – Putting the Banks Out of Business - 9th Dec 17
China’s Struggle for Market Economy Status - 9th Dec 17
Is Gold Really Strong? - 9th Dec 17
Bitcoin Parabolic Mania - 8th Dec 17
SPX Make a 61.8% Retracement - 8th Dec 17
Gold, Stocks and Bonds - The 3 Amigos Update - 8th Dec 17
Gold Stocks Break, Gold to Follow - 8th Dec 17
4 Charts That Show How Trump Tax Cuts Will Trigger A Recession - 8th Dec 17
Precious Metals Breaking Down! 3 Amigos to Abort? 4 Horsemen to Ride? - 7th Dec 17
Bitcoin Just Smashed Through $12k… Wait, $13k… Now $14k… This Is Getting Ridiculous! - 7th Dec 17
Stock Market Tops Look Like This - 7th Dec 17
Crude Oil, Oil Stocks and Invalidation of Breakouts - 7th Dec 17
Bitcoin Doesn’t Exist – 2 - 7th Dec 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Traders Workshop

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.


© 2005-2018 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