Advocates of those under and around the poverty line have long argued that the current method for measuring poverty rates is woefully out of date and an injustice to those who suffer due to the antiquated classifications.
These advocates were heard by the United States Census, which altered the way in which they determine poverty, and the outcome is grim. Sadly, the numbers under this method of measuring is actually higher than the already staggering 15%.
The Census Bureau's first supplemental poverty measure includes various government benefits and expenses not captured by the official poverty rate, which will continue to be used to determine eligibility for public assistance and federal funding distribution. The alternative calculation also takes into account geographic differences in prices.
Acting on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, the Census Bureau designed the new measure to capture the impact of many forms of non-cash public assistance, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and energy assistance.
The new measure had a major impact on poverty rates among the elderly, in part because they have large medical expenses. While Social Security keeps many of them just over the poverty line, health care costs can easily pull them under, Short said. Some 15.9% of senior citizens are considered poor, up from 9% under the official rate.
These discoveries by the Census Bureau are right in line with what we see at Modest Needs on a daily basis. We see that Social Security benefits are not enough to cover the cost of medical care and prescriptions for the elderly. We also see individuals who make "too much" for governmental assistance, but can't afford food if an emergency arises.
Hopefully good will come from these higher number of Americans living in poverty. Perhaps with better awareness of how many are in poverty, we can better aid those neighbors who are struggling to stay afloat.
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