The Unequal State of America: How we analyzed poverty relief

Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:06am EST

(Reuters) - The United States has a wide range of antipoverty programs but keeps no comprehensive body of data on them. Thus there are no official figures on how many poor people receive no help.

Reuters used the Current Population Survey's March supplement, published annually by the U.S. Census Bureau, to calculate the estimated population of working-age, non-disabled adults without dependent children and living below the poverty level.

Reporters then determined how many of these adults receive help from any of five major U.S. federal antipoverty programs - Medicaid; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (cash welfare); housing assistance; and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Our calculations didn't include spending on state or smaller federal benefit programs.

The Current Population Survey's March supplement consists of interviews of some 95,000 households. The survey is rare among federal data sets because, among other things, it provides insight into how much help Americans are receiving from the primary welfare programs. The data were standardized and made available through the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota.

(Reporting By Ryan McNeill; Edited by Michael Williams)

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