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Census reports on alternative poverty rate

Nov. 14, 2012 at 4:54 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- A poverty measure that takes regional differences into account reduces the poverty rate in 26 states, the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday.

The supplemental poverty measure also includes non-cash benefits like housing subsidies and school lunches, tax credits and necessary expenses, demographers said. While the official poverty measure assumes the cost of living is uniform throughout the country, the supplemental measure looks at regional costs.

"There are several important differences between the official and supplemental poverty measures," said Kathleen Short, a U.S. Census Bureau economist. "For instance, the supplemental measure uses new poverty thresholds that represent a dollar amount spent on a basic set of goods adjusted to reflect geographic differences in housing costs. The official poverty thresholds are the same no matter where you live."

Short wrote the report released Wednesday, which compares the 2011 figures for both rates for regions, individual states and demographic groups. The poverty rate was 16.1 percent for the United States based on the supplemental measure and 15 percent for the official one.

The supplemental rate was higher in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. It was lower in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Generally, states with high housing costs had higher supplemental poverty rates. In 10 states, the rate was statistically the same.

The supplemental poverty rate was slightly lower for children than the official one, although it was still higher than for other age groups. Blacks also had a slightly lower supplemental poverty rate, but it was higher for all other ethnic groups.

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