Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Extreme Poverty in the U.S.

Last month, the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy released a policy brief describing the findings from a study of extreme poverty in the United States between 1996 and 2011.

The study found that the number of households living in extreme poverty, defined as those with $2 or less per person, per day in total household income in a given month, rose by 130% during this time period, increasing from approximately 636,000 in 1996 to an estimated 1.46 million households in early 2011. The estimated 1.46 million households in extreme poverty at the start of 2011 includes 2.8 million children, or about 16% of all children living in poverty.

The study's authors, H. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan's School of Social work, and Kathryn Edin of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, also explored the extent to which including in-kind benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, as income impacted the number of households living in extreme poverty.

Their findings emphasize the important role public in-kind benefit programs play in the fight against poverty. When SNAP benefits are included as income, the number of households living in extreme poverty rose by 67% (compared with 130% when excluding SNAP benefits), increasing from about 475,000 in 1996 to almost 800,000 in 2011. The inclusion of SNAP benefits as income also reduces the number of children living in poverty in early 2011 by half to 1.4 million.

For more information about the study and additional findings, please view the policy brief on the National Poverty Center's website here.

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