Special Report

25 Facts of Life the Federal Poverty Rate Completely Ignores

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16. Foster children

While they represent a financial burden to a family as much as any other children, foster children are not counted in the official poverty measure.

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17. Noncash benefits like SNAP, WIC

While the official poverty rate factors in cash-based financial assistance, such as Social Security and unemployment compensation, it does not account for a number of other needs-based assistance programs that are not based on cash, such as SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps).

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18. Car ownership

For many, owning a car is a basic requirement for living, and the cost of car payments, upkeep, insurance, and gas are not considered when determining poverty rates. The vast majority of U.S. households have at least one car.

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19. Refundable tax credits

Just as tax payments are not considered in the official poverty measure, tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit — received by over 20 million Americans families and individuals every year — are not considered when calculating the poverty rate.

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20. Out-of-pocket medical expenses

Those millions of Americans who live without health insurance know that an unexpected health emergency can be enough to plunge someone into effective poverty. But out-of-pocket medical expenses are not counted as part of the official federal poverty rate.