OK, so only 1 in 3 of us is poor. Hurray! Not.

I saw this correction to reports that nearly half of Americans are below the poverty line or “low-income:”

UPDATE: Hold on just one second. The widely-cited “1-in-2” figure that a number of media outlets reported Thursday — including the Associated Press (and, of course, us by extension) — may not be accurate.

At least according to an NBC News affiliate in Los Angeles, which says it double checked the number with a trio of Census analysts who say that the actual figure for how many Americans are officially classified as either low income or impoverished is closer to 1 in 3.

NBC-LA explains that despite reports to the contrary, the Census officials tell them the the true figures are as follows: about 49.9 million Americans, roughly 13.8 percent of the U.S. population, are living below the poverty line and another 53.8 million, or about 18 percent, are considered low income.

49.9 million + 53.8 million = 103.7 million, or roughly 31 percent of the U.S. population. That’s still a pretty substantial chunk of the U.S. population, but not quite the “nearly half” that made its way into headlines around the Web and onto TV broadcasts.

Maybe it’s just because I missed the original report, but I hope you’ll excuse me for not breaking out the champagne. “Only” 31 percent of Americans are poor? This is not good, people.

22 thoughts on “OK, so only 1 in 3 of us is poor. Hurray! Not.

  1. Steven Davis

    How many of those are voluntarily poor? You know the ones who would rather collect a government check than get up everyday and go to work? I do feel sorry for some poor, I don’t feel sorry for them all. A good friend of mine has the talent to make $100,000+ if he’d get off his lazy butt and attempt to work more than 5 hours a week. But he’s the first to complain about not having money and talk about the money he’s going to get once his dad dies.

  2. Juan Caruso

    Brad, when were you last in Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, etc.

    Poor in America is still rich by the standards of most other countries, including several in the M.E. European countries without their embassies are no more than the equivalents of U.S. states for that matter (including Germany, now).

    Just a thought for the “sanity test”. Yes, there is a “sanity” test.

  3. `Kathryn Fenner

    Oh, please, Steven. We have repeatedly debunked the perennial myth of the poor person living on the dole. Can’t be done for very long in this country, and that has been true since Clinton’s welfare reforms.

  4. Steven Davis

    Kathryn – It’s hard for me to believe that 1/3 of able bodied citizens can’t find work. I’ve worked in areas where I’ve personally seen 3 and 4 generations of people in the same family who all were on welfare, and have no plans of getting off anytime soon. Until we stop the handouts, nothing will change.

    “welfare reform”, how did that whole fiasco work out?

    @bud – How’s this Obama change thing working out? The only thing that’s changed is the china pattern in the White House dining room.

  5. Steve Gordy

    Steven, your personal knowledge is not a good guide to how the rest of the world lives. As to “welfare reform”, I seem to recall that being a major GOP priority in the mid-90s.

  6. Doug Ross


    I hope that if a Republican wins next November, you will give him three years of slack on the economy if it tanks.

  7. Doug Ross

    We have more poor people because we have more people who are unskilled and uneducated and the jobs they used to do don’t exist any more.

    Where are the programs to work this issue from the individual’s personal intiative side of things versus the handout side?

  8. Brad

    Well, there’s TANF, or what Steve would call “welfare.” You know, the thing that replaced AFDC.

    It’s what we’ve had since the “end of welfare as we know it” in the mid-90s. It’s all about getting people off the dole and into jobs as soon as possible.

    That’s also what public education is about, particularly the tech system, which exists to train people for real jobs, as opposed to being about general education.

  9. Brad

    The legislation that created TANF was called the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.” Which ought to warm the cockles of any libertarian. Or some portion of the libertarian’s anatomy, at any rate.

  10. Steven Davis

    My views may be biased, because I didn’t grow up in the South where it appears if you don’t want to work you stand in a government line. I had the fortune of growing up in the Midwest where there is a thing called a “work ethic”, basically if you didn’t work you didn’t eat. Welfare was viewed as an embarrassment to the family. I’ve worked with guys who have had broken backs, here I see people getting approved for disability for a pinched nerve in their back. This may be the reason why this region of the country is also the fattest, sitting on a front porch or couch in front of a television doesn’t burn those thousands of daily calories they’re shoveling into their pie holes.

    Brad, how is that ANF (welfare under a different name) working out? Not too good.

    Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act… why didn’t they name it Get Off Your A__ and Stop Being a Burden To Society Act?

    I stopped feeling sorry for able bodied people looking for a handout long ago, the only people I feel sorry for are their kids who think this is normal.

  11. Silence

    I’d be all for a system where each individual got an allotment of aid that they weren’t allowed to exceed. Say a lifetime total of 6 months of unemployment benefits, and/or two years worth of food assistance, child care assistance, housing assistance, etc. After that…. Better get cracking.

    We tried to hire some domestic help last month (47 hours/week), and couldn’t find anyone (trustworthy and decent) willing to work for less than $10.00/hour, cash money. This bit of anecdotal evidence tells me that people aren’t so bad off if they won’t work for 8 or 9 bucks/hour. Maybe we ARE mollycoddling the poor.

    That being said, programs like section 8 housing simply are a pass through from the government to landlords. It prevents the lower end of the market from finding a true value and makes it harder for people NOT in the program (college students, young folks just starting out, etc.) to find housing at a reasonable cost.

  12. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Silence–$10/hour x 40 hour week x 50 weeks a year (2000 hours) is $20K. That’s below the poverty level, and were you going to pay health care benefits? [At 47 hours a week, you’d owe overtime to a non-exempt worker, as well.] This couldn’t be some teenager. It would be hard for a parent of small children to take such a job, too, unless there was some kind of free child care available. Who did you envision would be “trustworthy and decent” and able to afford to work for $20K a year?

  13. Brad

    I know I wouldn’t take a job like that. But then, I know I can make more than that, most of the time, freelancing.

    That’s why I only got an unemployment check two or three weeks back when I was unemployed. In a halfway decent week, it was so easy to make more than the $320 that was the maximum unemployment benefit — and anything you made was subtracted from your benefit, so what was the point?

    I realize not everyone could do that, and there are times when no one can do it. I did have those dry weeks when I took a check. But just speaking for myself, there would be little point in spending 40 hours doing a $10-an-hour job with no benefits, when I could most likely make better, more rewarding, use of the time.

  14. Steven Davis

    So rather than earn $20,000/yr. it’s better to stand in line at DSS.

    Who says you have to stop at 40 hours per week? If it’s welfare or homelessness, wouldn’t you work more than the minimum hours to be considered full time?

    There are housekeepers who work for the state and other businesses that make far less than $20,000 per year. I guess they should stop working and start collecting a welfare check.

    So the question remains, why do we keep allowing people to stay on unemployment for more than two years? Why do we allow people to get one form of welfare for years, and when that ends they jump in the next line they’re eligible for.

  15. Steven Davis

    2011 Poverty Levels:

    1 person $10,890
    2 persons $14,710
    3 persons $18,530
    4 persons $22,350
    5 persons $26,170
    6 persons $29,990
    7 persons $33,810
    8 persons $37,630

    Each additional person $3,820

    $20,000 is not below the poverty level for any family less than 4 people within the household.

  16. j

    Steven, if it’s so wonderful where you grew up, why aren’t you still there? You’re woefully lacking in knowledge of where and who the poor are and why the economy for many is so under performing. I suppose you consider yourself a Christian Republican with your empathy and concern.

  17. Doug Ross


    So these initiative based programs -how are they doing? How well are they doing at moving people into jobs?

    Seems like the results aren’t so hot.

  18. `Kathryn Fenner

    People who are housekeepers for the state and businesses get benefits, and don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

    Like I said, if a person has children (which would put them very close that poverty level), that schedule and comp level would make it very hard to make ends meet.

    A job share is more realistic–a mom with kids in school shares with some one in school who can take over when school’s out.

  19. Steven Davis

    @j – Because a company recruited me to come down here and work, probably because they couldn’t find anyone qualified locally.

    Suppose all you want, no skin off my back.

    @Kathryn – Your right, absolutely correct… they’re better off collecting welfare than working. It’s not like by working they could move up to a supervisor position or possibly start their own cleaning company. The welfare check is obviously the correct route for anyone making under $10/hr.

  20. Silence

    @ Kathryn,
    My point was only that if unemployment/the economy is as bad as we keep hearing, we should see the market price for domestic help falling. It does not seem to be.

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