Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Poverty Table 2010

New poverty thresholds were released by the U.S. Bureau of the Census (link). Once more I reproduce the table below. It is not very legible, so clicking on it is necessary to see it properly. The 2009 poverty table is on this blog (here), the 2008 table on LaMarotte’s earlier version (here). Just to save you some time in making a quick comparison, the rate for a family of four (two adults, two children) was $21,834 in 2008, $21,756 in 2009, and $22,113 in 2010. More on this in a moment. Here is the new table:


What poverty actually means, in the context of this measure, is that the individual who or family that falls below the figures shown is considered to be in poverty. People who earn the numbers shown are on the threshold—but not yet poor. One of the reasons why poverty measurements are sometimes said to be arbitrary is because here a single dollar one way or the other makes all the difference. It is no joy to earn right at the threshold.

To help you read a little, the first two columns of the data in the full table are presented in enlargement here.


As my earlier listing shows, the four-person threshold (family with two children) isn’t all that different, year to year. The difference between 2008 and 2010 is an increase of $279. These adjustments have everything to do with inflationary price changes. Therefore the Census Bureau’s announcement of the table is not what made the news. The news was in the fact that more people have fallen below these thresholds than in the past. In 2010, 2.6 million more people were in poverty than the year before. The total number for 2010 was 46.18 million individuals, an all-time record. But let's not forget that 2009 was also a record. To see an historical view of poverty in the United States, look at this earlier post.

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