U.S. Government to Experiment with New Definition of Poverty

Monday, March 08, 2010
Homeless in Los Angeles (photo: Chris Sansenbach)

For five decades the federal government has stuck with the same definition for what constitutes poverty. But the Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama has decided to use a new set of variables to compliment the existing method that delineates which Americans are officially low-income.

Developed by Rebecca Blank, undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs, who oversees the Census Bureau, the government is developing a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) that takes into account things like food, shelter, clothing and utilities. The current measurement looks only at how much income someone is earning to determine whether they are officially poor.
The SPM also will factor in a different family structure than what has been done since 1960. Instead of assuming the typical family model consists of two adults and two children, the new measurement will use one adult and two children family models to reflect current realities.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Political Economy: Drawing a New Line (by John Cranford, CQ Politics)
U.S. Plans New Measure for Poverty (by Sam Roberts, New York Times)
Changing the Federal Poverty Measure...or Not (by Diana Pearce, Huffington Post)


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