Report: More people would be poor under a revised Census formula

Monday, October 18th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Census Bureau is studying ways to redefine
poverty, a move that could potentially send millions of families
below the new poverty line.

The analysis was prompted by a report earlier this year by the
National Academy of Sciences, said Edward Welniak, chief of income
and poverty statistics at the bureau. Welniak said the goal is to
improve the measure of poverty, which was established decades ago.

In addition to redefining the poverty threshold itself, which
could increase the number of people considered poor, the bureau has
also studied for several years whether to include all or part of
non-cash benefits as income for the poor, a change that could
reduce the number in poverty. Among the non-cash benefits studied
were housing assistance and food stamps.

The New York Times reported today that under a new poverty
formula being considered, for a family of four to be considered
above the poverty line, their annual income would have to be
$19,500 a year, instead of the current $16,600 per year.

That change would make 46 million Americans, 17 percent of the
population, poor. Last month, only 12.7 percent were considered
poor, the lowest level in almost a decade.

The current poverty formula was created during President Lyndon
B. Johnson's administration and has not changed since 1965 except
for inflation adjustments. The new poverty measure is an attempt to
determine what poor people spend on food, clothing, housing and
extras, the Times said.

A higher poverty line would mean a rise in government spending
to pay for benefits such for the poor, such as food stamps.

Officials at the White House, which would have to authorize the
change in the poverty formula, said a few more years of work needs
to be done before poverty can be redefined.