New Poverty Measure Shows Less Children’s Poverty

The Census Bureau today introduced research on a new measure of poverty to complement the official measure, which has been in use since the 1960s. The new indicator, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure  , estimates that 49.1 million were grappling with very difficult economic circumstances in 2010, compared with 46.6 million under the standard poverty definition. The poverty rate under the supplemental measure is 16 percent, compared with 15.2 percent under the official measure.

Under the supplemental measure, the poverty rate for children declined, from 22 percent to 18.2 percent in 2010, as compared to the official measure. This decline is mostly due to the positive effects of government aid programs, most notably food stamps. The calculation offers a more detailed view of how poor people are getting by. It includes government benefits that aim to help low-income Americans, including subsidized school lunch programs, energy assistance programs, housing subsidies and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps. It also tries to more accurately reflect what people are paying out in expenses such as health care and payroll taxes.

The official measure will continue to be produced every year and be used to assess eligibility for government programs and determine funding distribution. The supplemental poverty measure, on the other hand, is intended to better reflect contemporary social and economic realities and government policy effects and thus provide further understanding of economic conditions and trends.

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