Robert Rector

Robert Rector

Widely reported but misleading government statistics about poverty rates have driven a five-decade increase in welfare spending, Heritage Foundation expert Robert Rector writes in the Washington Examiner.

Government data about poverty rates fail to account for massive government programs that gave 100 million Americans an average benefit of $9,000 in 2011. Rector explains:

The Census Bureau defines a family as poor if annual “income” falls below specified thresholds. (In 2011, the poverty income threshold for a family of four was around $23,000.)

But the Census Bureau excludes 97 percent of all welfare benefits when counting “income.” By the agency’s misleading measurements, neither food stamps, nor the earned income tax credit, nor public housing nor Medicaid provide “income.” As defined by the Census Bureau, these programs have no impact whatsoever on poverty.

This system for counting poverty is rigged for continual expansion of welfare benefits, he argues:

This fall, when the Census Bureau again reports nearly 50 million Americans live “in poverty,” it will again spark appeals for higher welfare spending — spending which, by definition, cannot ameliorate poverty.

Since the “war on poverty” began in the 1960s, Rector explains, benefits have grown such that “government now spends on welfare five times the amount needed to raise all families out of poverty.”

What do you think? Are poverty statistics misleading?

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