There are 13 million "hidden poor" people in America, those living in destitution but not counted by the official government measure of poverty, the head of a House committee says.

Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, chairman of the Select Committee on Hunger, said Thursday that Census Bureau poverty statistics released last week rely on a poverty-line standard that is outdated and understates the problem.The Census Bureau's statistics for 1989 show an overall poverty rate of 12.8 percent, or 31 million people - about what it was the year before.

Studies that put the figure 13 million higher, he said. "Thirteen million hidden poor. With these additional poor, we're talking about one out of every five Americans living in poverty."

The official poverty line is based on 1963 measurements. There have been annual adjustments since then to account for inflation, but witnesses told the panel those adjustments haven't been adequate.

"That measure . . . has never been updated to reflect changes in consumption patterns and standards of living since the early 1960s," said economist Patricia Ruggles.

" . . . that measure is based on consumption data from the mid-1950s," she said.