The Poverty Rate Explained

Brad Plumer clarifies the official 2012 poverty rate of 15%.

The 15% poverty rate figure is the ‘annual poverty rate.’ In contrast, “as a new report from the Census Bureau shows, a much, much larger subset of people slip in and out of poverty all the time.”

“For instance: Between 2009 and 2011, nearly one third of the country — 31.6 percent — fell below that official poverty line for at least two months.”

“By any count, the recession made poverty significantly worse. Persistent, chronic poverty rose from 3 percent to 3.5 percent.”

“A Columbia study also found that poverty rose during the recession — but that it would have risen much more sharply had it not been for safety net programs such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and Medicaid.”

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