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The Poverty of the Poverty Rate: Measure and Mismeasure of Material Deprivation in Modern America Paperback – September 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Aei Press (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0844742465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0844742465
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,357,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Nicholas Eberstadt is the Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute.

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Format: Paperback
The old saying that figures lie and liars figure only gives a sense of the problem with measures like the government's poverty rate. The real problem is that they are used without understanding what the number means, how it is derived, and the limits of what it can tell us. The other issue is that we don't clearly see how something that is as overused as the poverty rate has collected interests who depend on it in its present form or who advocate changes that will benefit them more than it will improve the measure. Because the interests tend to pile up on both sides of the dividing line the political stalemate leaves the old measure in place despite its many known and proven flaws.

Nicholas Eberstadt takes the time to explain what the official measure of poverty in American actually measures, what it is supposed to tell us about people in need, and what the trends have been over the past several decades. I also appreciate his explaining to us how the rate came to be and the limits it was known to have when it was created.

Statistics and social measures have come a long way over the past several decades, and the author shows us what they tell us and the discrepancies they demonstrate against the official poverty rate. We are also shown that the poor in America have greater expenditures than the income the poverty rate accounts for and that the gap between income and consumption is widening among the poor. He also explores what we know about the physical condition of the poor, their household accoutrements and medical care. Of course, this means the poverty rate measure is flawed, but for political reasons we cannot change it. Too many programs, incomes, and budgets are based on that old and out of date measure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Definitions change over time, even when it apparently comes to statistics. "The Poverty of 'The Poverty Rate': Measure and Mismeasure of Want in Modern America" is a criticism of today's handling of the poor and needy in America. Judging the current measure of the poverty rate as a metaphorical broken compass, Eberstadt offers new ways to measure America's true poverty rate, stating that at this point, it is better to start over entirely than to repair a fundamentally broken system. "The Poverty of 'The Poverty Rate'" is an intriguing read for those interested in one of politics' most thrown about terms.
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