Special Report

25 Ways the Federal Poverty Rate Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

According to the latest official federal rate, 12.4% of American residents lived in poverty in 2022. However, this measure is close to seven decades old, and is a controversial and arguably a very rough reflection of fiscal insecurity in this country. 

The official poverty rate is determined by applying income thresholds to pre-tax income. Those thresholds are based on the calculation of the cost of a minimum food diet as well as the number of people in the household who rely on that income. However, the federal poverty rated is missing some fairly significant factors. It doesn’t consider the regional differences in prices — the cost of the same meal would be much higher in New York City than, say, Topeka, Kansas. It also doesn’t include different kinds of basic sources of wealth and expenses. 

It also neglects to account for millions of Americans, such as those residing in prisons, military barracks, and other underrepresented groups. Furthermore, it overlooks the most economically vulnerable demographic in the nation: the homeless population. (These states have the highest numbers of unsheltered homeless individuals.)

The Census Bureau also offers an alternative poverty measure, the supplemental poverty measure, which includes some factors omitted from the official measure but not all. By comparing the official poverty rate with the supplemental poverty rate, here are 15 states where poverty is worse than data suggests.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed U.S. Census Bureau documentation to list 25 groups, expenses, sources of income, and more that the official poverty rate does not measure.

Click here to see the 25 facts of life the federal poverty rate completely ignores

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