(The U.S. poverty rate was 16 percent in 2010 measured under an alternative method, up from the official rate of 15.2 percent released earlier, according to the Census Bureau.
Today’s data, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, is based on how much families spend on food, clothing, shelter and utilities. It represents a shift from the method the bureau has used since the 1960s, which determined the official poverty line by tripling a family’s annual food budget.
The annual income at which a family of four — two adults and two children — is considered living in poverty was $24,343 in 2010 under the supplemental measure calculations. That compares with the official figure of $22,113 for the same year.
The supplemental measure put the percentage of Americans under 18 living in poverty at 18.2 percent, a drop from the 22.5 percent official rate. Among those 65 and older, the supplemental rate was 15.9 percent, an increase from the 9 percent official rate.
The bureau reported the official numbers in September. They showed the proportion of people living in poverty climbing to 15.1 percent last year from 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level since 1993. The official numbers use a method based on U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics showing that about a third of the average American family’s income is spent on food, according to a 2006 article in The New Yorker.
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