By Tami Luhby @CNNMoney
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) –Federal lifeline programs have helped keep millions out of poverty, U.S. Census data shows.
Social Security payments lifted 21.4 million people - including 14.5 million senior citizens - over the poverty line in 2011, while unemployment benefits prevented 2.3 million Americans from falling into poverty.
The Census Bureau doesn't take into account non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, when it measures income. But it calculates how these programs would have helped keep poverty in check.
There were some 46.2 million people below the poverty line - which was $23,021 for a family of four - in 2011.
Food stamps would have lifted 3.9 million people - 1.7 million of them children - out of poverty had that aid been counted as income. And the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable federal credit for low- to moderate-income working Americans, would have kept 5.7 million people, including 3.1 million children, above the poverty line.