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?

Comments (43)

Charles McCarty - August 24, 2012


Obviously. Most importantly why is the manipulation undertaken? More taxpayer $ for “enforced charity giving” and woe be it to any politician courageous enough to oppose it!

Charles McCarty

philip fuchs - August 24, 2012

Career bureaucrats have a self-interest in expanding jobs. This is why all such jobs should be term-limited, not just the president.

Rusty Ingle - August 24, 2012

This is just the tip of the iceberg; if the public knew what the “real” unemployment rate and the “real” rate of inflation were, there would be revolt! The majority do not know that energy and food (two essential commodities) are not even included in the CPI calculations; another “government ruse”!

Anne - August 24, 2012

I recently retired, I was asked what income do I get monthly which in my case is SS and a small pension which adds up to $1300.monthly and $15,600, yearly. I paid cash for my home,no mortgage, cars all paid for, no cc debt, few expenses
I am very comfortable, but they said I fall below the $19,000 poverty and now I have been added to the statistics.
I do not consider myself poor.
I just wonder how many more there are like that. Anne

James Kress - August 24, 2012

Economies are divided according to 2010 GNI per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method. The groups are: low income, $1,005 or less; lower middle income, $1,006 – $3,975; upper middle income, $3,976 – $12,275; and high income, $12,276 or more. For comparison, the 2010 US Census Bureau sets the US “Poverty Threshold” at $14,200 for a family of 2 adults.

Note: even the “poor” in the US are in the high income ranking set by the World Bank. That means, according to Obama, Reid, Stabenow, and the rest on the Left, every citizen of the US is “Rich” and must be taxed punitively as punishment for their crime.

World Bank Classification Link





Poverty Threshold Data

Size of Family Unit Estimated Threshold

1 person (unrelated individual)……………………………..…………. $11,136

Under 65 years …………………………………………………………. 11,344

65 years and over ……………………………………………….…….. 10,458

2 people ……………………………………………………………….….. $14,220

Householder under 65 years ………………………………………… 14,676

Householder 65 years and over …………………………..………… 13,195

3 people ……………………………………………………………….….. $17,378

4 people ……………………………………………………………….….. 22,314

5 people ……………………………………………………………….….. 26,417

6 people ……………………………………………………………..……. 29,887

7 people …………………………………………………………….…….. 33,919

8 people …………………………………………………………….…….. 37,863

9 people or more ………………………………………………….……… 45,094

Note: The preliminary estimates of the weighted average poverty thresholds for 2010 are calculated by multiplying the 2009 weighted average thresholds by a factor of 1.016403, the ratio of the average annual Consumer Price Index for All Consumers (CPI-U) for 2010 to the average annual CPI-U for 2009. These estimates may differ slightly from the final thresholds that will be published in September 2011 with the release of the official poverty estimates for 2010. If you have any questions concerning these poverty thresholds, please call (301) 763-2422.

Data Date: January 14, 2011

Tom - August 24, 2012

I’m 71, retired, and have reasonable annuities, etc to supplement Social Security, so I don’t consider myself poor. However, a flyer in a church bulletin led me to look into the new rules about qualifying for food stamps. I couldn’t believe the silly way they do the calculation; I kept asking “don’t you care about 401K plans?” to which the answer was “no.” So I’m qualified! If I took a job as a WalMart greeter, that would increase my wages and kick me off.
Revising the rules for food stamps is another way that Obama is trying to bribe seniors — the more people have their hand in the till, the more votes for the status quo.
I denounced this entire scam in a letter to my Congressman. This needs to be publicized.
Some liberals have complained that Romney wants to take 12 million people off food stamps. I think he should take 40 million off. The fact that the money flows through the budget of the Department of Agriculture doesn’t lessen that fact that it’s another worthless rip-off of the taxpayers money.

Ellen Elmore - August 24, 2012

Not only are the poverty level statistics misleading, it is an outright lie to the American public. The government is ignoring those on welfare because to count them would increase the percentage of those living below the poverty level. Once Americans find out the truth that our government is making things worse not better, they would vote the current administration out of office in November. The deception is all about votes.

Jim P. Stroman - August 24, 2012

The Federal Government has been overly powerful for the last 150 years. It’s time that we get back to the basics of the gold standard. Electing honest representatives to local, state, and federal positions. And may God Bless America again!

Robert E. Black - August 24, 2012

Typical big government propaganda that is reinforcing the welfare state mentality. True poverty needs to be fairly addressed and heeded. Distorted poverty should be ignored. We have a lot of distorted poverty in this country that is nothing less than a scam! It is time to get rid of it by revamping the Census Bureau distortions of ignoring the facts!

BARTON L GREEN, II - August 24, 2012

To label poverty statistics as misleading is a criminal understatement. Politicians are cowardly, voracious, vain, vicious and venal.

John Fussell - August 24, 2012

As a 30+ year veteran of the grocery industry I can say
this program and others that we see in the industry are
a failure. I’ve seen many people that raised their kids
on stamps, etc and now their children are doing the same. Many have lived in the projects for decades and
make no visible effort to get off the system. They are ‘poor’ but can have tattoos all over, hair weaves and coloring, the most advanced cell phones and every electronic known to exist it seems. Eliminate 25% funding of these programs and also stop extending unemployment forever and maybe some people will try
to get back to work.

Jane Hamman - August 24, 2012

The Census Bureau needs a major revamping under a Romney administration. They should stop counting illegal aliens as citizens and start counting the 97% of income now excluded in calculating “poverty!” The bureaucracy keeps growing exponentially until stopped!

Anne Flint - August 24, 2012

When recieving all these welfare benefits they are brought way above the poverty level! So yes they are very misleading!

James Martin - August 24, 2012

Of course they are misleading! Statistics can be fashioned to support any outcome. It’s not in government’s interest to compile statistics that discredit itself.

Gerald McGonigle - August 24, 2012

Not only are the numbers misleading, but the items most of those considered “poor” have access to these days would have made them considered pretty well off in the 50s. All resources provided to those on assistance should be considered as income, and taxed accordingly.

Lucky3511 - August 24, 2012

Of course, that is why the dems love them.
There are Lies, Damn Lies and statistics, all of which are the major tools for demoncraps

J E Houser - August 24, 2012

The question regarding the federal government’s misuse of data: Do you expect me to believe anything done by the federal government? Government recipiunts of goverment wages work for themselves, not the USA public. That is one of the compelling requirements to repeal the 17th Amendment.

Russ Morgan - August 24, 2012

Clearly, the government left slants the statistics in their favor and the right has been inept at correcting the bias.

Douglas Deaton - August 25, 2012

If Government Benefits are not included in a families income, no family will ever rise above the Poverty Level. Only an increase in family salary can lift a family out of poverty. If the Federal or State Government is going to spend tax dollars to help families, it should be reflected in the poverty rate.

paddy o - August 25, 2012

Misleading?? It came from the government
didn’t it??

Robert Smith - August 25, 2012

Not only misleading, but fraudulently-so. The American Politician’s been pulling the wool over the American taxpayer’s eyes, but have involved themselves in criminal conspiracy’s in doing so. Sir what we need in this country is and old fashioned “under the tree meeting” and have a few outdoor trials and sentences> this would be good for the type of climate changes needed to make the crooks of political life feel warmer about their space in this world, “in other word remove their carbon footprint for good”.

English - August 25, 2012

When some leading “foundations” and “research institutes” have as part of their core mission to “ensure that at least 20%” of the American population is “living in poverty”, then we have a systemic problem of data manipulation for political gain. On the other hand, kudos to Heritage Foundation for exposing the bias.

George - August 25, 2012

Not misleading, just plain dishonest!

Don Stover Jr - August 25, 2012

Yes they are very misleading designed for further expantion of a socialist government. Welfare equates to roughly a $65,000 yearly income a starting engineers sallary in many parts of the country, to date engineering degrees are still the highest or one of the highest starting salaries of any bachelors and masters degree educational programs.

Fred - August 25, 2012

This is unbelievable! How is JQ Public supposed to know what is included in the data, which is being manipulated by government to perpetuate welfare programs, which we as taxpayers and citizens expect our government to manage with honesty and integrity!

Alonzo M. Echols - August 25, 2012

I take issue that career bureaucrats are the issue. Those in the Civil Service ranks now and always do credible work. The problem lies in the Senior Executive Service. Inaugurated under the Carter Administration. These theorists imported from Academia and political circles have wreaked havoc ever since. I am mindful of a quote from a forgotten source:

curtis limerick - August 25, 2012

INCOME IS INCOME and is exempt from “depending on the word is”. How can we work toward a fair tax base for all citizens-legal and illegal-if we can’t identify income?

kathleen mccollum - August 25, 2012

yes and it’s about time we get some honesty in this subject. The taxpayer is getting ripped off because of their compassion to their fellow citizen. talk about “fair Share”!!!

alexander ilnyckyj - August 25, 2012

It seems that both parties are a bunch of liars, and yet they both want us to vote for them. Are they crazy? no just gready for our tax money so they can enrich themself some more. Why is it when they start in office they are poor and in a few years they are millioniars?

Robert Godwin - August 25, 2012

If my food costs and housing costs were not considered income I would be in poverty too. This is rediculous.

Brian Giovanetti - August 25, 2012

I believe, that many of our leaders in government have bought into an agenda that seeks to diminish our status as a leader among the nations of the world, to a member of a worldwide group of individuals who have no genuine love or loyalty to the united states.Rather, they have slowly over a period of time been pushing forward their agenda to decrease our status as a super power.Their reasoning is greatly flawed, because it does not have God in it’s foundation.God has allowed it because we have turned away.We are at great risk unless we turn back from this current course and turn back to God.Please pray!

Jane Conway - August 25, 2012

Of course it is misleading and rigged since virtually ALL welfare programs are supported by Democrats which use them to literally BUY votes from the underclass. Don’t forget you can feed a man a fish a day, but if you teach him to fish for himself, he no longer needs you.

Chuck - August 25, 2012

buying votes with others money has been out of control for way too long

Larry Miller - August 27, 2012

misleading statistics from the government?…commonplace and shameful!!

Ron Muhlenkamp - August 27, 2012

When reporting numbers , be specific. $ X spent on welfare divided by Y families earning less than $23,000. equals X/Y dollar of support. Do you think we’re spending enough? All Gov’t numbers should be shown on a per household basis. Since there is just over 100 million households in the US, it simply means moving the decimal point 8 places to the left. The mention of $Billions and $Trillions cause eyes to glaze over. But everyone understands $10. per family vs. $10,000. per family

Betty Beckham - August 27, 2012

When one sees food stamp recipients driving late model SUVs it really does give one pause to consider that too many are on the dole. I have long wondered what WIC, food stamps, earned income tax credit, public housing, utilities assistance, Medicaid add to the income of a family of four. How poor are the poor? I would like to see some charts published giving details. I’ve looked long and hard but have not found any. Both parties and the media speak about the increased numbers below the proverty level. But poverty is some mysterious figure that no one pins a figure to. Nor does anyone detail the monetary effect of all the various programs. I do not regret helping the truely destitute. I do, however, feel we have a warped definition of poverty. Poverty does not include wide screen TV’s, fancy electronics, smart phones etc.

Bill Wainscott - August 27, 2012

Three and one half years of leadership by the Democrat Party led by President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have gravely wounded our Republic. A sign in front of a business that is circulating the internet reads: A taxpayer who votes for Obama is like a chicken who votes for Colonel Sanders. This is an extremely important election

Donald Wright - August 27, 2012

I have never heard one person in Washington–not even those who claim to be Christian–cite the Biblical requirement that ought to figure in determining whether a person can get government assistance, 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “… If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” Obama, in attempting to circumvent the work requirement for welfare assistance, has once again shown–as if further proof were needed–that he is no Christian.

John K Daugherty - August 27, 2012

Almost all Govt. statistics are misleading, the remainder are just baldface lies, and it has to stop!

K. Hunter - August 28, 2012

Misleading barely describes the statistical chicanery involved in every federal give away. Actually, that’s misleading too since “welfare”, both individual and corporate, is a term of deception for corrupt vote buying for incumbent politicians.

William M Sneden Sr - August 31, 2012

Seems to me this also demonstrates the inability of the Federal government to adequately co-ordinate the execution of its programs. Whether the statistics are misleading or not, it shows that there is no attempt to look at the whole problem and to have adequate measurements in place to monitor the effectiveness of this program. From Mr Rector’s report it should be obvious that the original objective of the War on Poverty could be acheived at a MUCH lower cost to the taxpayers. Holy mackrel, we are not approaching a welfare stste we are already there!! From Mr Rector’s report 100 million people are receiving welfare benefits AND from other reports CNS News there are almost 11 million people receiving disability money from the Federal government. I have no idea what the overlap is, I think a lot of those people are double dipping into both programs (or perhaps more of the 79 different welfare programs).

Steven Rankens - September 5, 2012

Is the Sky Blue? Does a bear [email protected]#$ in the woods? The current administration and the progressives in the democrat party are pushing for a welfare state, and will do anything to mislead, misrepresent and distort the facts that the government is our salvation, what a bucket of bull. The government is of the people, by the people, and for the people not the other way around. The whole administration is full of lies and hypocrisy. American’s are aware of what’s going on, and soon the President will get first hand experience of life in the private sector, boot his sorry butt out of the White House!

D.J.Walker - November 24, 2012

I disagree with the assertion that the government is trying to increase welfare spending. The government said farewell to the poor a long time ago. The welfare state has been replaced with the security state. The War on Poverty was replaced with the War on Crime and War on Drugs to make the poor look undeserving. Thus, social programs are being drastically cut and money is being directed toward law enforcement and national security. This is an attempt to discipline the poor who are thought to be pathological criminals void of morals. Welfare is not about ameliorating poverty, it is about controlling, regulating and supervising the actions of the poor (see the TANF objectives).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *