- Mark Levitan and Daniel Scheer
- Spring/Summer 2012
- Link to foc291d (PDF)
- Link to foc291sup (PDF)
The official U.S. poverty measure, which relies solely on pre-tax cash income, provides a limited view of the effects of government policy on the poverty rate. Beginning in 2011, the Census Bureau has sought to address this problem by reporting poverty rates based on a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), in addition to those based on the official methodology. The SPM is modeled on the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, and, like the official measure, evaluates poverty through the lens of income adequacy. However, the new measure employs a far more inclusive definition of the resources that are counted as income compared to the official measure. In addition to counting pre-tax cash, the new measure captures the effect of taxation along with the cash value of in-kind housing and nutritional assistance. Under this measure, the value of benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) is an important component of family resources.