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POLITICO reports:

The official rate of poverty in the U.S. dropped just slightly in 2017, disappointing anti-poverty and anti-hunger advocates who had hopped for a bigger decline against the backdrop of a strengthening economy.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday showed the rate of Americans living in poverty went from 12.7 percent in 2016 to 12.3 percent in 2017. The decline was welcome news, no doubt, for those whose income inched up. But, ultimately, it wasn't statistically significant.

The SNAP effect: There's another measure anti-hunger advocates keep a close eye on: The Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes into account how programs like SNAP and other assistance initiatives factor in. The SPM rate was 13.9 percent in 2017. That was essentially unchanged from 14 percent in 2016. The report said SNAP benefits kept some 3.4 million people above the poverty threshold. School meals kept 1.2 million above the line and WIC boosted 279,000 individuals. Here's the latest report
Heritage criticizes report: Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, argued Wednesday that the report overstates poverty in America because it doesn't count most government aid when it looks at income for its topline numbers. Rector advocates for consideration of the Consumer Expenditure Survey put out by the Labor Department.

"Clearly, welfare benefits - if counted correctly - reduce poverty," he said. He argued the system is "inefficient" and should be "fundamentally redesigned so that aid complements and encourages self-sufficiency rather than displacing it."

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