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Census.govPopulation Poverty Main PublicationsThe Effect of Benefits and Taxes on Income and Poverty Reports and Technical Papers (CPS) › Alternative Poverty Estimates in the United States: 2003

Alternative Poverty Estimates in the United States: 2003

These estimates are different from the official poverty estimates. There are two kinds of alternative poverty estimates in this report.

Poverty Estimates based on Alternative Measures of Income

Based on the same poverty thresholds (dollar amounts used to determine poverty status) as the official measure, but different definitions of income.

Thresholds vary by size of family and ages of family members. Originally computed using USDA food budget data and estimated portions of family income spent on food. Updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (official measure and some alternatives use the CPI-U, other alternatives use the CPI-U-RS, a revised price index). (Learn more about CPI-U and CPI-U-RS.)

Income definitions vary:

  • Some alternative measures use after-tax income.
  • Others include the value of noncash benefits (such as food stamps, Medicaid, and Medicare) as income.
  • 17 definitions of income vary according to the combinations of taxes and noncash benefits taken into account.
  • Official measure uses money income only.

Poverty Estimates based on National Academy of Sciences Recommendations

Based on poverty thresholds and income definitions that both differ from the official poverty measure.

Thresholds are adjusted for family size and composition differently from the official measure--these thresholds are based on food, clothing, shelter, utilities, a small amount for miscellaneous expenses, and for some measures, average medical expenses paid out-of-pocket.

Income is based on:

  • After-tax income
  • Includes value of noncash benefits.
  • Deducts some work-related expenses.
  • Takes medical expenses into account (each measure uses a different method for doing so).

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division: Poverty |  Last Revised: September 16, 2010