College Students Are Not Poor: Reassessing Poverty Rates in Kansas College Towns
The poverty rate is the standard metric for quantifying how much of a state, county, or nation lives in a state of material deprivation. The poverty rate is used by businesses trying to locate facilities, researchers trying to understand the economy, and the social safety net trying to target aid to those most in need. While mismeasurement is common in all data, we quantify the large magnitude of mismeasurement in some jurisdictions, those were the population consists of a large proportion of college students. We show that the presence of college students sometimes doubles the poverty rate above what it would be without the presence of those students. We also show inconsistencies in how college students effect the poverty rate calculation. We do not recommend a fix. Rather we call for better poverty metrics which look beyond money-income in defining poverty, considering in addition other forms of income and need.