Saturday, November 10, 2012: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Adams (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Organizers: Mark Levitan, NYC Center for Economic Opportunity
Moderators: Connie Citro, National Academy of Sciences and Danilo Trisi, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Chairs: James Riccio, MDRC
The Census Bureau released poverty estimates based on the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) in November 2011. The SPM broadly follows recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1995. The NAS’s approach had gathered widespread support within the research community because it proposed a poverty threshold based on contemporary and geographically-specific spending needs and because it accounts for the value of tax credits and in-kind benefits in its tally of family resources.
Although the Bureau’s work is a welcome and long-awaited response to the growing desire for an improved federal measure of poverty, the Census work, to date, is limited in two respects. First, the Bureau’s estimates are based on data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS ASEC). Census, however, recommends the use of the American Community Survey (ACS) for poverty estimates for sub-national units. Consequently the Bureau did not report SPM estimates for states or localities. Second the Census release only provided data for 2009 and 2010, offering no time series for understanding how poverty has evolved over time.
This panel addresses both these limitations. A paper by Census researchers explores the feasibility of adopting the ACS for generating SPM measures for sub-national areas by using the CPS ASEC for the imputation of resources (such as tax credits and the value of SNAP and other in-kind benefits) that are included in the SPM, but are not measured in the ACS. Papers by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity and the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Research on Poverty make use of the ACS to provide SPM-style poverty estimates for New York City and the state of Wisconsin, respectively. Both papers are policy-oriented, focusing on the extent to which a more accurately measured safety net offset declines in employment and earnings during the recent economic downturn alleviating a rise in the poverty rate. A fourth paper from Columbia University creates a time series for the SPM from 1986 to 2010 using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey and CPS (ASEC). The paper pays particular attention to how changes in social policy have affected poverty rates for children and the elderly.
All four of the panel’s papers contribute to the theme of this year’s APPAM conference; SPM-style measure provide a much more accurate gauge than the official poverty measure of the effectiveness of public policy in addressing poverty across demographic groups and over time.