In-Kind Transfers

Measurements of the distribution of income and the poverty rate are based on families’ money income. Through various government programs, however, the poor receive many non monetary items, including food stamps, housing vouchers, and medical services. Transfers to the poor given in the form of goods and services rather than cash are called in-kind transfers. Standard measurements of the degree of inequality do not take account of these in-kind transfers Because in-kind transfers are received mostly by the poorest members of society, the failure to include in-kind transfers as part of income greatly affects the measured poverty rate. According to a study by the Census Bureau, if in-kind transfers were included in income at their market value, the number of families in poverty would be about 10 percent lower than the standard data indicate.

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