One flaw of the official poverty measure is that it doesn’t account for government assistance programs that are not income but improve people’s economic situation. For example, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps put food on the table for millions of families, but the impact of that assistance doesn’t show up anywhere in official poverty statistics.
The U.S. Census Bureau recognized the limitations of the official way we determine who lives below poverty, and several years ago introduced the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). For example, if certain government assistance programs were included in poverty measures, the rate of child poverty would be lower.
U.S. Census Bureau, Supplemental Poverty Measure, 2018