More than 1.4 million families live on $2 a day per person

By:  Marisol Bello

The number of families living on $2 or less per person per day for at least a month in the USA has more than doubled in 15 years to 1.46 million.

That's up from 636,000 households in 1996, says a new study released by researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard University.

Government benefits blunt the impact of such extreme poverty, but not completely, says one of the researchers, Luke Shaefer, a professor of social work at Michigan.

When food stamps are included as income, the number of households in extreme poverty, defined as living on $2 a day, drops to 800,000, Shaefer says. That's up from 475,000 in 1996.

"This seems to be a group that has fallen through the cracks," says Kathryn Edin, a Harvard researcher and professor of public policy.

The study found that among households in extreme poverty, one in five received rent vouchers or lived in public housing. Sixty-six percent had at least one child with public health insurance. The study did not factor in how those benefits affect household income. 

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