Social Security Is Keeping 27 Million Americans Out Of Poverty

The Census released a comprehensive look today at their Supplemental Poverty Measure, and there’s an interesting table inside.

The SPM takes into account the effects of governmental assistance on poverty rates, as well as the effect of taxes paid to pay for such programs. 

Using that new measure, the Census found approximately 50 million Americans living in poverty in 2011 — 16.1 per cent of the country.

But by removing various forms of government assistance and revenue, we can get a clearer picture of how government assistance helps — and hurts — that figure. 

Here are the results, compiled by Census researcher Kathleen Short:


Photo: Census

Breaking this down…

  • Without social security, 24.4 per cent of the country would be impoverished — nearly 27 million more Americans than are already below the poverty line
  • Without the earned income tax credit and the refundable portion of the child tax  credit, about 20 per cent of the country would be impoverished — nearly 12 million more Americans under the poverty line
  • Food stamps and unemployment insurance are also keeping millions out of poverty

On the other hand…

  • Out-of-pocket medical (MOOP) costs are impoverishing about 12 million Americans
  • Payroll taxes are impoverishing about 5 million Americans
  • Federal taxes are hitting hundreds of thousands

Short discusses the year-over-year changes:

While benefit amounts did not increase in 2011, the number of individuals over age 64 did increase between the two years. The number of elderly individuals grew 4.3 per cent from 39.8 million in 2010 to 41.5 million in 2011. The per cent of people reporting Social Security benefits increased from 22.3 per cent to 22.9 per cent. Likewise, the per cent reporting receipt of SSI benefits increased slightly. The increased effect of work expenses likely reflected increased commuting costs caused by slight increases in work effort and a rise in the price of gasoline as measured by the CPI-U.

Good stuff to keep in mind when debating the country’s fiscal future.

SEE MORE: Business Insider’s Comprehensive Guide To The Fiscal Cliff >

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