The Poverty of "The Poverty Rate"
Measure and Mismeasure of Want in Modern America

  • Title:

    The Poverty of "The Poverty Rate"
  • Format:

    Paperback
  • Paperback Price:

    20.00
  • Paperback ISBN:

    978-0-8447-4246-5
  • Paperback Dimensions:

    6'' x 9''
  • 190 Paperback pages
  • Buy the Book

Click here to view the full book as an Adobe PDF.

Click here to purchase this book on Amazon.

Since its inception in 1965, America's official poverty rate (OPR) has been the single most important statistic used by policymakers and concerned citizens to evaluate success or failure in the nation's ongoing struggle against material need. But in a critical new examination of this widely followed measure, Nicholas Eberstadt charges that the OPR is, in reality, "a broken compass"—a flawed index generating increasingly misleading numbers about poverty in the United States.

The OPR was originally intended to track an absolute level of poverty over time by comparing a family's reported pretax income against a corresponding poverty threshold. But for the past three decades, the OPR has reported trends that are jarringly inconsistent with other statistical indicators of material deprivation. What is the reason for this curious discrepancy? Eberstadt suggests that the OPR's most serious problem is its implicit assumption that poor families will spend no more than their reported annual incomes—in other words, that their income levels are an accurate proxy for their consumption levels. In the decades since the OPR was unveiled, the disparity between reported income and expenditures has progressively widened, making income an ever less reliable predictor of consumption patterns—and, consequently, living standards—for America's poorer families.

In The Poverty of "The Poverty Rate," Eberstadt contends that the defects of the current poverty rate are not only severe but irremediable. Income-based measures cannot offer a faithful portrait of consumption patterns or material well-being in the United States. Central though the OPR has become to antipoverty policy, this "untrustworthy yardstick" should be discarded and replaced by more accurate measures of deprivation.

Nicholas Eberstadt is the Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Nicholas
Eberstadt

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.