Monday, January 24, 2011

Poverty and the Census of Rome

From Michael Hicks, writing for the Indiana Economic Digest:
There is a certain poignant irony in the U.S. Census release of 2010 poverty statistics this Christmas week. It reminds us that, behind the green eyeshades of professional data collectors, the folks at the Census have an acute marketing sense.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph traveled to their familial birthplace as part of a census. The details and timing of the Roman census are hazy, but the intent of these counts was to levy taxes for Rome. This is a rich story and serves as a high point of the New Testament's beautifully subversive backdrop of freedom from tyranny. Unlike the Roman census of Quirinius, the modern U.S. Census affects the distribution, not collection of tax dollars. It is understandably a bit more welcomed.

Among the first of the big Census releases (that will continue for years) are local poverty rates for 2010. These are widely reported, but what do the data tell us? The sad truth is almost nothing of consequence. Here's why: (More)

(Hat-tip: My mom)

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