The methodological arbitrariness of the poverty measure becomes evident when one considers that American poverty-alleviation policy has shifted away from the kinds of government assistance that are counted and toward the kinds that aren't. This leads to a number of oddities. Perhaps most significantly, America's largest poverty alleviation programme is now the Earned Income Tax Credit, but it's effects in alleviating poverty are simply ignored when calculating the poverty rate.
(Photo: A man sleeps on the sidewalk on September 14, 2011 in New York City. New Census Bureau figures released today reveal that 3.08 million people in New York State were living in poverty in 2010, or 16 percent, up from 15.8 percent in 2009. By Spencer Platt/Getty Images)