However poverty is measured, it’s still up

Data from a supplemental poverty measure released yesterday by the Census Bureau suggest that 3.2 million fewer children were living in poverty in 2010 than under the official federal poverty line. The supplemental measure counts a family’s gross income, government benefits and work expenses, while the traditional measure, which has been used to define poverty for about 50 years, only counts gross income.

Before you start cheering (fewer children in poverty is always good) – let’s dig a little deeper:

-    Even though child poverty is lower under the supplemental measure (18.2 percent) than the official poverty line (22.5 percent) in 2010, it is still up.

-    For children (under 18), poverty increased from 17.3 percent in 2009 to 18.2 percent in 2010 under the supplemental measure.

-    Government benefits play a significant role in reducing child poverty.  The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) collectively decreased child poverty by 7.2 percent. (These benefits are potentially subject to budget cutting at the federal level, which would potentially have downstream effects in the states and the District.)

How would we expect this to play out in the District? There is no reason to believe the poverty rate for children in the District wouldn’t follow the national trend and have increased under the supplemental measure from 2009 to 2010. The Census Bureau did not release state-level findings from the supplemental measure this year but is expected to next year.

DC Action for Children will be looking into these issues in more depth. Let us know what questions you would like us to answer!