One frequent knock on the official poverty rate is that it generally excluded income from some government programs like food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, but included income from others, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security. That means people who, if those benefits were treated as cash, wouldn’t be counted as impoverished, still get counted as such.
It’s a fair enough point, and the Census Bureau responded by creating a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) that takes such programs into account and, perhaps more importantly, breaks down the way that each government program affects the poverty rate. That measure showed that the government program that keeps the most people out of poverty is Social Security. In 2011, the SPM found a poverty rate of 16.1 percent. Without Social Security, that would have been 24.4 percent.
Read the full article at the Washington Post.