Census Bureau releases its long-promised alternate measure of poverty
November 9th, 2011|
Alternative measures of poverty, quietly published in the past, have shown less poverty among children because of safety-net programs but more poverty among older Americans, who are often plagued by high medical costs, according to the New York Times.
The Census Bureau’s new measure considers not only cash income but also government benefits, work expenses, taxes, and cost of living.
One consistent finding in the alternative measures is that poverty falls among children, the target of many government programs, and it rises among Americans 65 or older, who often have high out-of-pocket medical costs, despite being covered by Medicare.
Such is the case with one man, 69, a retired city worker in Charlotte, North Carolina, who gets nearly $12,000 a year from Social Security. That leaves him about $1,000 above the poverty line for a single adult his age–officially not poor.
But the 69-year-old had a heart attack last summer and struggles with lung disease, so he now spends about $2,500 a year on medicine. At this point, he crosses the statistical line into poverty.
An upbeat survivor of a lifetime of need, he fills his prescriptions in partial amounts and argues that “I ain’t poor. I eat. I got a roof over my head.”
Some experts say that cases like his may point to a hidden need among the elderly.
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