(LAS VEGAS, KXNT)–Census Bureau figures show the nation’s poverty rate is higher than official government figures, and that Nevada has the third highest percentage of its population living in poverty of all states.

The Census Bureau reports there are about 3 million more poor people in the United States than the official count of 46.5 million. The Census Bureau uses an alternative measure of poverty that factors in everyday costs, such as out-of-pocket medical expenses, that haven’t been calculated as part of the official rate. That figure shows Nevada with the nation’s third highest share of poor people.

In an interview with KXNT, Leandra Copeland, an economist with the the Nevada Department of Training and Rehabilitation says it is hard to determine just what pushes Nevada–which has a general poverty rate right about the national average–so high on the list when other circumstances are factored. National analysts suggest that much of the higher, Census Bureau-provided figure is due to more elderly persons falling below the poverty line.

Nevada has seen a dramatic jump in its percentage of elderly population. A report (pdf) prepared for the state legislature said there was a more than 48-percent increase in our elderly population between 2000 and 2012, and predicted the current estimated elderly population of 325,000 would double by the year 2026.

Copeland told KXNT the many elderly–who have Medicare coverage– can still slip into poverty when they encounter health problems that require co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses.

She adds another important reason why Nevada’s poverty rate can jump under different criteria is that the official poverty floor of approximately $23,000 is the same everywhere–from North Dakota to San Francisco. The cost of living in a particular area has a direct impact on how far that $23,000 can go.

A Pew Study lists Nevada’s poverty rate at 16.4%, just below nearby states like California and Arizona, but well above other neighbors like Utah, Idaho,Wyoming and Colorado.



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