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EconomicPolicyInstitute January 7, 2011

Last year, the Census Bureau reported that 14.3% of Americans were living in poverty in 2009. But the methodology used to measure poverty in America has long been a matter of dispute and on January 4, the Census Bureau released some alternative estimates. These new calculations show that, when accounting for the current cost of living in different parts of the country, far more people have poverty-level incomes.

Another reminder of the disastrous effect of the recession

Elise Gould, EPI’s Director of Health Policy Research, and researcher Kathryn Edwards, published an Issue Brief on these alternative estimates of poverty. The new calculations, they say, show the extent of poverty across the country and also underscore the value of various safety net programs. Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, in particular, keep over 20 million people out of poverty, while other programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, housing vouchers, child care subsidies, Medicaid and Medicare, provide relief to those who are poor.

Today’s official poverty threshold is set at three times the food budget in 1959, adjusted for inflation. But because of major changes in the typical family budget over the past 50 years, many critics say this method is outdated and usually underestimates the amount of income a family needs to cover basic expenses.

State of Working America unbound

The 2010/2011 edition of EPI’s flagship product, The State of Working America, will be published online next week. The new site will feature analysis and hundreds of interactive charts, presented in a user-friendly format. Stay tuned for details.

Visit EPI at ASSA

If you are attending the American Economic Association conference in Denver, Colo. this week please join us at EPI’s cocktail reception on Saturday Jan. 8 (6-8 pm) at the Sheraton Hotel’s Governor’s Square, in room 12. Please also visit EPI’s booth, where we will be displaying our new book, Failure by Design: The Story Behind America’s Broken Economy.

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