Supplemental Poverty Measure

  • A rich new poverty measure, By Nancy Folbre, May 10, 2010, New York Times: “The Census Bureau recently announced plans to develop a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (S.P.M.), also referred to as a Supplemental Income Poverty Measure (SIPM). If you want to remember the acronym, imagine a phone app that allows you to sip virtual coffee that increases your alertness to technical issues of poverty measurement. Poverty researchers like me will not require this imaginary app, as we are already overexcited. Most of us dislike the official poverty lines used to determine who, exactly, qualifies as poor. Most of us can recite at least five reasons why these measures (based on a mid-1960s assessment of the costs of a minimal food budget) are narrow, out of date and downright misleading. Most of us can also expound on how current methods of measuring poverty make it difficult, if not impossible, to accurately assess the impact of anti-poverty policies. Food assistance administered through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) has been a mainstay of our safety net during the current recession. But since food stamps are not income, they don’t show up in our income-based poverty measures. The Earned Income Tax Credit (E.I.T.C.) is our largest cash-assistance program other than unemployment insurance in this recession. Our poverty measures are based on pre-tax, rather than after-tax, income. So, by definition, the E.I.T.C. does not reduce poverty. It’s hard to find anyone more passionate about these inconsistencies than Professor Timothy Smeeding, current director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin. He wrote his doctoral dissertation in 1975 on the importance of developing measures of post-benefit, post-tax income to better inform public policy…”
  • Reaction mixed on proposed poverty measure, By Cheryl Wetzstein, May 14, 2010, Washington Times: “The Census Bureau’s formal release of an alternative way to measure poverty in the United States is 16 months away, but the rumblings of unease can already be heard about the politically sensitive indicator. The bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which will be released September 2011, is ‘a bogus and dishonest propaganda device,’ Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told a Brookings Institution briefing recently. ‘It’s a Trojan horse,’ introduced under the name of poverty, but designed to find endless ‘income inequality’ that must be fixed with even more spending on anti-poverty programs, Mr. Rector said. The government will spend $900 billion on means-tested aid to poor and low-income persons this year alone, he added. Policy experts have been working for at least 15 years on a new poverty standard to supplement – or eventually replace – the measure that has been used since the 1960s, a measure that many critics say does not reflect contemporary realities and needs. The problem: some experts think the current measure overstates the number of poor Americans, while another group argues it vastly understates the number…”

Poverty and Infectious Disease in the US

Researchers trying to track third world infections in U.S., By Joseph Brownstein, May 14, 2010, ABC News: “Researchers and legislators are trying to determine just how far some obscure but deadly third world diseases have penetrated into the United States. Studies in recent years have shown that diseases typically confined to less-developed countries have entered the United States, coming over the border or arising in places where conditions abruptly changed, like post-Katrina Louisiana. But poverty and a lack of access to healthcare have made it hard to determine how severe the problem might be. ‘The poverty in the U.S. tends to concentrate in certain pockets,’ said Dr. Peter Hotez, chair of the department of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine at George Washington University Medical Center. He cited the Mississippi delta, post-Katrina Louisiana, the border region with Mexico and U.S. inner cities: ‘Those particular areas, for all practical purposes, resemble a developing country…'”

Foster Care Placements – Texas

More Texas youths placed in foster care, By Robert T. Garrett, May 13, 2010, Dallas Morning News: “Texas’ foster care rolls have surged, outstripping expectations by more than 1,000 youngsters this year, Child Protective Services officials said Thursday. State child welfare authorities attributed the surge in part to strains on families caused by the recession. They also noted that CPS workers are more inclined to remove children from homes, after a rash of high-profile child deaths and as workers and state district judges got used to a federal appeals court’s 2008 edict tightening child-removal procedures in Texas…”

State Budget and Programs for the Poor – Minnesota

Funding uncertainty takes toll on state’s poorest residents, By Madeleine Baran, May 12, 2010, Minnesota Public Radio: ” Robert Fischer started out last year with big plans to improve his health, find a job, and get off welfare. But the Minneapolis resident decided to put those plans on hold when Gov. Tim Pawlenty began to propose deep cuts in assistance programs for poor people. Like dozens of other Minnesotans living in poverty, Fischer threw himself into organizing against the cuts, holding meetings at homeless shelters, speaking with legislators, and educating himself on public policy. For Fischer, there was a lot at stake. He faced losing his medical coverage when Pawlenty removed funding for General Assistance Medical Care last year. In February, he learned that the governor wanted to eliminate his only source of income — $203 a month from a program called General Assistance…”

Hybrid Welfare Eligibility System – Indiana

Indiana, IBM trade suits over welfare contract, Associated Press, May 13, 2010, Wall Street Journal: “Indiana and its former partner in welfare privatization, International Business Machines Corp., sued each other Thursday over the technology giant’s canceled 10-year, $1.37 billion contract to automate the state’s intake for food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits. Both lawsuits were filed in Marion County courts in Indianapolis. In its lawsuit, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration is seeking to recover the $437.6 million it paid IBM through Jan. 31, plus the costs of any third-party lawsuits, federal penalties, and state employee overtime that it incurs as a result of its association with the Armonk, N.Y., company. The state is seeking triple damages, or more than $1.3 billion, as it is entitled to do under state law. It accused IBM of intentionally denying benefits to clients to make its performance appear better and giving the state agency false and misleading information…”