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New Census Figures Show Increase in Poor to 16 Percent of Total Population

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The United States Census Bureau released a broader poverty measure today that reveals the number of Americans living in poverty is even higher than initial estimates, reported Reuters. The new numbers show 16 percent of the total population falls at or below the poverty line, compared to the 15.1 percent official rate reported in September.

On Friday, The New York Times reported that experts called the September ratings, which still painted a bleak picture of rampant, widespread poverty, "flawed" for ignoring the money the needy receive in food stamps and other benefits, the amount they lose to taxes and medical care, and the lower rent they pay to live in poorer areas.

The alternate measure, released today, better accounts for the resources the poor have and the expenses they pay, as opposed to narrowly focusing on cash wages. Today’s measures show the number of Americans living in poverty actually reached a record high of 49.1 million in 2010 (16 percent of the total population)—a significantly higher number than the September-released estimate of 46.2 million poor in the country (15.1 percent of the population), reported Reuters. The latest figures raised the poverty line to annual income of $24,343 for a family of four; the previous official standard had set the poverty line at $22,113.

The biggest demographic change is occurring among the poorest poor—defined as those living at 50 percent or less of the official poverty level. They are now more likely to be white, Native-born and high school or college graduates, said Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research associate at Brookings, a nonprofit public policy institution based in Washington, D.C., to the Associated Press on Friday. Continue reading: The Ranks of the Poorest Poor Are Growing.

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