Census poverty numbers are a snapshot, not full picture

This morning, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its poverty numbers for 2015. The expectation is that the number will likely approximate the poverty rate from the year before. Tom Hirschl, sociologist and co-author of “Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes,” says the problem with these estimates is that they only provide a snapshot of who is poor in any given year, and not over the long term.

To help Americans identify their risk of poverty during their lifetime, Hirschl developed a poverty risk calculator (riskcalculator.org) along with his co-authors Mark Rank of Washington University and Kirk Foster of the University of South Carolina. An updated version of the calculator is being released today, including more robust data on race, gender, education, marital status and age.

Bio: https://devsoc.cals.cornell.edu/people/thomas-hirschl

Hirschl says:

“The official U.S. Census bureau poverty report is simply a snapshot in time. It does not tell us about the risk that Americans face in the future, and it vastly underestimates that risk.

“Over the past several decades Census Bureau reports have found that the average one year risk of poverty tends to vary between 11 and 15 percent. However, if we examine the calculator estimates for longer periods of time, the likelihood of poverty is larger. For example, a white male age 20 to 24 with at least some college, unmarried, has a 5-year risk of poverty equal to 20.4 percent; a nonwhite male with the same characteristics has a 45.3 percent risk of encountering poverty within a 5-year period.”



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