But those raw numbers leave out some key details that can help us understand the fuller implications of how poverty affects individual Americans. For instance, how is poverty defined? What specific hardships do the poor suffer? And what does it mean to be poor in America today?
The Census Bureau defines as poor any individual living on an income of less than $11,139, or any family of four living on less than $22,314. But that measure, developed over 40 years ago, is inexact at best. It doesn't include non-cash benefits--things such as food and housing subsidies--that can play a key role in supporting families. Nor does the Census definition take into account the large differences in the cost of living in different part of the country, or expenses such as child-care.
So from the outset, we lack a fully accurate way of gauging Americans' true economic well-being. That's why the Census Bureau said in its report that it plans to unveil preliminary findings next month, derived from a new measurement that addresses some of the shortcomings in the current system.
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