Panel: New Approaches to Understanding Poverty
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Saturday, November 8, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Taos (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Charles Varner, Stanford University
Panel Chairs:  Christopher Wimer, Columbia University
Discussants:  Arloc Sherman, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The California Poverty Measure
Sara E. Kimberlin, Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality and Beth Mattingly, The Carsey School of Public Policy

Frequent Poverty Measurement
Koji Chavez and Beth Red Bird, Stanford University

A Qualitative Protocol for Monitoring Poverty
Beth Mattingly1,2 and David Grusky1, (1)Stanford University, (2)The Carsey School of Public Policy

The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (CPI) is building a comprehensive research program focused on measuring and explaining trends in poverty, inequality, and other distributive outcomes. This HHS-funded initiative now features ten research groups that address important poverty-relevant measurement problems facing the nation. The country’s current infrastructure for monitoring poverty is antiquated, rests on seemingly arbitrary decisions made more than a half-century ago, and typically fails to take into account all manner of “big data” developments. This session will feature three CPI research programs designed to address some of these problems. The purpose of these programs is to improve the precision, frequency, and breadth of poverty measurement in the United States and, together, facilitate more targeted, rapid, and effective poverty alleviation. The California Poverty Measure (CPM) is a new measure of poverty within and across California developed by the CPI in collaboration with the Public Policy Institute of California. The CPM builds upon the methods employed by the U.S. Census Bureau in its Supplemental Poverty Measure and uses the American Community Survey (ACS), the Current Population Survey (CPS), and California administrative data to account for policies and characteristics unique to the state. It can be used to examine poverty by demographic group and county (or county aggregations for smaller counties) and to assess the impact of the social safety net on poverty rates. In this presentation, we will highlight results from our 2012 measure, planned for release in October 2014, and compare two year patterns between 2011 and 2012. The Stanford Center’s frequent monitoring project is building a stable of measures of poverty and economic deprivation that will be reported on a frequent (e.g. quarterly) basis. As it stands, the Census Bureau releases poverty rates on an annual basis and, worse yet, the annual release occurs well after the year being measured. Using monthly CPS data, the CPI has developed a series of poverty-related statistics that can be released as interim reports in advance of the annual poverty measurement releases. Finally, the CPI is developing a new qualitative trend measurement of poverty. The simple idea here is that the usual Census, survey, consumption, or even time diary data all miss something fundamental about the structure of everyday life in poor households. Insofar as we rely exclusively upon such standard data for trend measurement, our assessments of poverty (and changes therein) will accordingly be incomplete. The rationale for carrying out qualitative and ethnographic studies of poverty is therefore compelling, but there remains a challenge in reading trends from one-shot studies that are based on very diverse methods. Our new approach involves developing a standardized reusable protocol that makes it possible to rigorously measure the qualitative experience of life among those in poverty. This protocol, once developed, could then be applied at regular intervals to track possible changes in the texture of life within poverty groups.
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