ON-Lion Letter
The number of Americans designated by the U.S. Census Bureau every August as impoverished is misleading and does not reflect the annual living conditions of the majority of those labeled as "poor," according to Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

"[I]f poverty means a lack of nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, then very few of the 37 million identified as living 'in poverty' by the Census Bureau would, in fact, be characterized as poor," Rector writes in "How Poor are America's Poor?:  Examining the 'Plague' of Poverty in America."

The typical American designated as poor has a car, air conditioning, a microwave, two color televisions, cable- or satellite-television reception, and a VCR or DVD player, Rector's study found.

"While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity," he writes in the report.  "Most of America's 'poor' live in conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago."

In late August, Heritage hosted a discussion about that which the Census Bureau numbers don't tell us about poverty in America.  Joining Rector were former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Wade Horn and Brookings Institution senior fellow Ron Haskins.  A video of the event can be viewed online.

Rector recommends reducing actual poverty, especially among children, by addressing its two key causes:  low levels of parental work and high levels of single-parent families.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports The Heritage Foundation.
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