(Re)Drawing the Line: A Case for Updating the Poverty Measure – Center on Poverty and Social Policy

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Poverty statistics are essential for determining how prevalent poverty is in the United States and documenting whose basic needs are going unmet. This data also helps to target resources and assess the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs. 

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends updating the methodology used by the Census Bureau to calculate the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)—a more comprehensive measure than the Official Poverty Measure—to reflect households’ basic needs and resources available to meet those needs more accurately.

This report recommends that the Supplemental Poverty Measure replace the current Official Poverty Measure as the primary statistical measure of poverty and be updated in recognition of the needs most American families face such as medical care, childcare, and housing costs. As the basic needs of families have changed over time, these measures should be updated to capture new financial realities.

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