Poverty Measurement: Federal Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)
Development of the Supplemental Poverty Measure
Plans to develop a supplemental poverty measure to complement, but not replace, the existing official poverty statistic were announced by the U.S. Commerce Department on March 2, 2010. Analysts from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are developing the measure, which uses the best new data and methodologies to obtain an improved understanding of the economic well-being of American families and of how federal policies affect those living in poverty. The initiative to create the new statistic was included in President Obama’s FY2011 budget proposal, but was not funded; however, research on many aspects of the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) has gone forward nonetheless.
The official poverty measure, which has been in use since the 1960s, largely estimates poverty rates by looking at a family’s or an individual’s cash income. It will remain the definitive statistical measure. The supplemental measure is a more complex and refined statistic, including such additional items as tax payments and work expenses in estimating family resources. Unlike the official administrative measure, the supplemental measure is not the measure used to estimate eligibility for government programs. Instead, it is an additional macroeconomic statistic, providing further understanding of economic conditions and trends. It draws on the recommendations of a 1995 National Academy of Science report called Measuring Poverty, and the extensive research on poverty measurement that has been done over the past 15 years.
IRP Director Tim Smeeding and Ron Haskins, Brookings Senior Fellow and Co-director of the Center on Children and Families, have been discussing these same technical issues involved in poverty measurement with a group of experts who first met at Brookings Institution in October 2009. They released a letter in support of the Commerce Department’s announcement of the new, alternative measure.
In a scaled-back initiative, the Census Bureau has maintained new questions on the Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) that help inform the SPM, and the Bureau released a new set of preliminary poverty estimates using the 2011 CPS ASEC before the end of October 2011. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, will not publish 2010 thresholds using the SPM approach in a time frame that would allow the Census Bureau to publish poverty estimates in September and will not be able to add questions to the Consumer Expenditure Survey at this time. For the latest news on development of the SPM, visit Census Bureau Update on the Supplemental Poverty Measure.
Research on Alternative Poverty Measures
The Supplemental Poverty Measure
- Short, Kathleen. November, 2012. The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2011. Current Population Reports, P60-244. U.S. Census Bureau.
- Population Association of America (PAA) Webinar, April 19, 2012. How Are Children Faring? What the New Supplemental Poverty Measure Tells Us (recording, .wmv file). David S. Johnson, Timothy Smeeding, and Jane Waldfogel, speakers.
- Smeeding, Timothy. November 15, 2011. “Redefining ‘Poverty,’” an in-depth interview on the WisconsinEye independent network.
- Short, Kathleen. November, 2011. The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2010, Current Population Reports, P60-241. U.S. Census Bureau.
- Short, Kathleen S. 2011. The Supplemental Poverty Measure: Examining the Incidence and Depth of Poverty in the U.S. Taking Account of Taxes and Transfers, presented at the 86th Annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International, June 29-July 3, 2011.
- Bavier, Richard. April 26, 2011. From NRC to SPM - What has not changed?
- Bavier, Richard. November 25, 2010. From NRC to SPM - What has changed?
- Short, Kathleen S. and Trudi J. Renwick. 2010. Supplemental Poverty Measure: Preliminary Estimates for 2008, prepared for the 32nd Annual Research Conference of The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Boston, MA, November 4-6, 2010.
- Moskowitz, Daniel, Ron Haskins, and Timothy M. Smeeding. 2010. Is the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure a Relative Measure of Poverty? Brookings Center on Children and Families.
- Short, Kathleen S. 2010. Who is Poor? A New Look with the Supplemental Poverty Measure, presented at the Allied Social Science Association Meetings, January 2011.
Effects of Public Policy
- Ziliak, James P. September 2011. Recent Developments in Antipoverty Policies in the United States. Institute for Research on Poverty, Discussion Paper no. 1396-11.
- Sherman, Arloc. November 7, 2011. Poverty and Financial Distress Would Have Been Substantially Worse in 2010 Without Government Action, New Census Data Show. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Sherman, Arloc. January 5, 2011. Despite Deep Recession and High Unemployment, Government Efforts – Including the Recovery Act – Prevented Poverty from Rising in 2009, New Census Data Show. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Sherman, Arloc. 2010. Projecting the Anti-Poverty Effect of Key Provisions of the Recovery Act, presented at the APPAM Conference, Boston, MA, November 2010.
- Sherman, Arloc. 2009. Safety Net Effective at Fighting Poverty but has Weakened for the Very Poorest. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Renwick, Trudi J. 2011. Geographic Adjustments of Supplemental Poverty Measure Thresholds: Using the American Community Survey Five-Year Data on Housing Costs, presented at the 86th Annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International, June 29-July 3, 2011.
- Renwick, Trudi. 2011. Supplemental Poverty Measure: Geographic Adjustments from the American Community Survey, presented at the Allied Social Science Association Meetings, Denver, CO, January 2011.
- Ziliak, James. 2010. Alternative Poverty Measures and the Geographic Distribution of Poverty in the United States. Report to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Poverty Research, University of Kentucky.
- Harkness, Joseph, Sandra Newman, and C. Scott Holupka. 2009. "Geographic Differences in Housing Prices and the Well-being of Children and Parents," Journal of Urban Affairs, 31(2): 123-146.
- Smith, Dorothy. 2009. Measure by Measure: The Current Poverty Measure v. the NAS Poverty Measures. Center for the Study of Law and Social Policy.
- Garner, Thesia I. and David Betson. 2010. Housing and Poverty Thresholds: Different Potions for Different Notions, presented at the Midwestern Economics Association Annual Meeting, Evanston, IL, March 12, 2010.
- Betson, David M. 2009. Homeownership and Poverty Measurement, presented at the Brookings Institution/Census Bureau Conference on Improved Poverty Measurement, October 2009.
- Johnson, Paul D., Trudi Renwick, and Kathleen Short. 2011. "Estimating the Value of Federal Housing Assistance for the Supplemental Poverty Measure," SEHSD Working Paper #2010-13. U.S. Census Bureau.
- Caswell, Kyle J. and Brett O'Hara. 2010. "Medical Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Poverty, and the Uninsured," SEHSD Working Paper 2010-17. U.S. Census Bureau Working Paper.
Methodology – Other
- Hokayem, Charles and Thesia I. Garner. 2011. Supplemental Poverty Measure Thresholds: Imputing Noncash Benefits to the Consumer Expenditure Survey Using Current Population Survey, presented at the 86th Annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International, June 29-July 3, 2011.
- Garner, Thesia I. and Kathleen S. Short. 2010. Combining Surveys for Poverty Measurement, presented at the 31st General Conference of The International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, St. Gallen, Switzerland, August 22-28, 2010.
- Fremstad, Shawn. 2010. A Modern Framework for Measuring Poverty and Basic Economic Security. Center for Economic and Policy Research.
- Short, Kathleen. 2010. Experimental Modern Poverty Measures 2007, presented at the Allied Social Science Association Meetings, January 3, 2010.
- Garner, Thesia I. and Kathleen S. Short. 2010. "Identifying the Poor: Poverty Measurement for the U.S. from 1996 to 2005," Review of Income and Wealth, 56(2).
- Garner, Thesia I. and David Betson. 2010. "Setting and Updating Modern Poverty Thresholds," BLS Working Paper 435, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Prices and Living Conditions.
- Pimpare,Stephen. 2009. "The Failures of American Poverty Measures," Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 36(1): 103-122.
- Blank, Rebecca M. 2008. "How to Improve Poverty Measurement in the United States," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(2): 233-254.
- Garner, Thesia I. 2010. Supplemental Poverty Measure Thresholds: Laying the Foundation, presented at the Allied Social Science Association Meetings, Denver, CO, January 2011.
- Grall, Timothy. 2011. A Comparison of Child Support Paid from CPS and SIPP, U.S. Census Bureau Working Paper.
- Provencher, Ashley. 2010. Unit of Analysis for Poverty Measurement: A Comparison of the Supplemental Poverty Measure and the Official Poverty Measure, U.S. Census Bureau Working Paper.
- Bavier, Richard. 2009. "A Legislatively-Based Poverty Threshold."
- Macartney, Suzanne and Lynda Laughlin. 2011. "Child Care Costs in the Current Population Survey: A Comparison to SIPP," SEHSD Working Paper #2011-1. U.S. Census Bureau.
- Rapino, Melanie, Mathew Marlay, and Brian McKenzie. . Research on Commuting Expenditures for the Supplemental Poverty Measure, Census Bureau Working Paper.
- U.S. Census Bureau Web site: Comments Received in Response to Federal Register Notice
- U.S. Census Bureau Web site on Alternative Measures of Poverty
- Federal Register Notice and Solicitation of Comments
- Observations from the Interagency Technical Working Group on Developing a Supplemental Poverty Measure
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site on Experimental Poverty Measures
For selected commentary on alternative measures of poverty, visit Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity's Project on Assessing Poverty in America.