There are three ways of defining poverty in America: the official Census Bureau method, which uses a set of income thresholds that vary by family size and composition; an experimental income-based method called the Supplemental Poverty Measure that factors in government programs designed to help people with low incomes; and a consumption-based method that measures what households actually spend.
By defining poverty according to different criteria, these three methods capture surprisingly different populations of men, women and children. … Needless to say, these three methods and their distinct outcomes have led to substantial disagreement among policy experts and social scientists. [cont.]
Tom Edsall (Columbia U.), New York Times