50mln Americans living in poverty, even with benefits – US Census

50mln Americans living in poverty, even with benefits – US Census
Almost 50 million Americans are suffering financial hardship, and the situation is not improving, the US Census Bureau has found, using a sophisticated measurement of poverty that takes into account benefits, necessary spending and geographical location.

Unlike the official poverty threshold, which counts anyone who earns less than three times the cost of the minimum food diet – or $23,050 for a family of four in 2012 – as poor, the supplemental poverty index is more sensitive and accurate.

A family of four living in rural Kentucky without a mortgage, for example, would actually need to earn less than $18,000 to be poor, while the same family living in San Francisco in mortgaged house would need more than $35,500 to get by.

Image from census.gov

According to the supplemental poverty measure 49.7 million Americans can be classified as poor. The results show that even more Americans are in distress than the raw official figures show. The official survey, also published by the US Census Bureau in September, reported that 47 million Americans are below the poverty line.

The percentage of those suffering poverty remains virtually unchanged from 2011 and 2010, and is worse than that in 2009.

The worst affected are Blacks, Hispanics and those born outside the US (which may overlap the other two categories) – of these minorities just above a quarter are living in poverty. Worst off are non-citizens, who do not have the rights or the know-how to receive support from federal programs.

When factoring in expenses, the states with the least poverty are Iowa, Wyoming and Minnesota, and those with the highest proportion are DC and California, where nearly 24 percent of all people are below the threshold.

The survey also demonstrates who is most dependent on government aid, and would be confined to financial hardship without it.

Those 65 and over have a supplemental poverty rate of 14.8 percent. But without Social Security more than half of them would be destitute. Official statistics show that less than 10 percent of this group is poor – but taking into account heavy out-of-pocket healthcare spending, which the survey does, means this group is under more financial pressure than it appears at first glance.

The situation is reversed on the other side of the age spectrum. Official stats show that more that more than 22 percent of under-18s are suffering from poverty, but the more sophisticated statistics that include tax credits, show that the number is around 18 percent.

Image from census.gov