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Census Supplemental Indicator Shows Poverty Increase

Even after taking into account federal programs meant to cushion the effects of income disparities on children, those under 18 still have higher poverty rates than adults and seniors, according to a new U.S. Census report.

In 2011, 18.1 percent of those 18 and younger lived in poverty, according to the supplemental measure—less than the 22.3 percent official poverty rate, largely because it includes food and other "in-kind" supports for children. Most of these supports are shielded from the cuts expected under sequestration, though some nutrition and early-learning programs like Head Start and Early Head Start are unprotected.

The study uses a new poverty measure, introduced last year, to supplement the official federal count; it takes into account regional differences in costs of living, child-care and medical costs, as well as the buffers of social safety-net programs like free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches in schools. For example, the official poverty measure in 2011 would count a family of two parents and two children living on $22,811; by contrast, the supplemental poverty income might range from just above $21,000 to nearly $26,000, depending on whether the same family rents or owns a house with or without a mortgage.

Poverty rates vary widely from state to state under both the official and supplementary measures, but in the South more people are protected from poverty by social programs than in the Northeast or West.

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