By Changing the Way It Measures Earnings, Mexico Cuts Poverty Up to 33 Percent
Mark Stevenson - The Associated Press
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July 19, 2016

The Road to Juan's House is the story of Juan Boca Negra who lives in a shack village on the outskirts of a Mexico City dump with his brothers and sisters. It is a story of hope as he receives education in the hopes that one day he can leave his shack in the garbage dump for a better life. (Eric Odell)

Anti-poverty groups in Mexico accused the national statistics agency Monday of arbitrarily changing the way it measures income surveys so poverty appears to be less of a problem.

The statistics agency, known as the INEGI, defended the changes, saying it "improved" the way it measures income because it suspected people were underreporting what they earn.

The agency said it required its interviewers to dig deeper with people who reported no income, to turn up even the most meager sources of income like handouts, odd jobs or help from relatives. Those previously unregistered amounts were then added to the count in the survey, which was carried out late last year.

According to the government poverty agency CONEVAL, the changes implemented last year increased estimates of all household income 11.9 percent nationwide and raised estimates of income among the poorest households as much as 33.6 percent.

But the change makes this year's figures impossible to compare to previous years, frustrating attempts to track or study Mexico's poverty.

The civic group Citizen Action Against Poverty said that changing statistics raised questions about the possible political use of the numbers, and won't change the underlying problem.

"This 'improvement' doesn't change reality," the group wrote in a statement. "People's incomes don't improve because they change the statistical formulas."

According to last year's numbers, 46.2 percent of Mexicans lived in poverty, and 9.5 percent were in "extreme poverty," meaning their income wasn't sufficient to meet their most basic needs.

Read the rest at The Salt Lake Tribune

Related: Mexico Poverty: Changes in How Family Income Data Is Collected Will Affect Public Policies - Experts (Mexico Voices)

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