Washington, D.C. — Today the Census Bureau released the 2010 supplemental poverty measure, or SPM, which reveals that last year 16 percent of the population lived in poverty, higher than the 15.2 percent the traditional measure shows. This new measure better reflects the medical out of pocket costs and work expenses that families face such as child care and transportation, and takes into account the impact of public policies such as the earned income tax credit and SNAP/food stamps program in keeping people out of poverty. Melissa Boteach, Half in Ten Campaign Manager, issued the following statement today:
The new measure shows that more families lived in poverty last year but also underscores the critical role government policies played in mitigating the extent of poverty and rebuilding the middle class.
Compared to the traditional measure, the SPM shows that 2.5 million more Americans lived in poverty last year. The new measure also reveals, however, that programs such as the earned income tax credit, or EITC, kept millions of children out of poverty. Without accounting for the EITC, nearly one in four children (22.4 percent) would be in poverty, rather than the nearly one in five (18.2 percent) that the SPM shows.
The new data also show that programs such as the EITC, SNAP, and housing subsidies prevented children from sliding deeper into poverty. Under the traditional measure, 10.4 percent of children lived in deep poverty (about $11,000/year for a family of four), but under the SPM this number falls by nearly half to 5.3 percent as safety net programs lifted up very vulnerable families.
The numbers confirm that the recovery is not trickling down to the average worker, with one in six Americans living in poverty. They also reveal that medical out of pocket costs and work-related expenses such as childcare and transportation are driving significant numbers of families into poverty. At the same time, the very programs that the Census reveals prevented even higher poverty rates—EITC, SNAP/food stamps, housing subsidies, child nutrition programs, and energy assistance—are at risk for deep cuts in the super committee deliberations and annual appropriations bills.
These numbers should be a wake-up call to policymakers that we cannot have a shared economic recovery while leaving millions of our citizens behind. Half in Ten urges members of Congress to protect these programs in budget negotiations and invest in job creation to rebuild the middle class.
For more data on poverty and hardship, please see Half in Ten’s new report: "Restoring Shared Prosperity," which tracks progress in cutting poverty along indicators relating to good jobs, strong families, and economic security. See also:
Half in Ten was launched in 2008 to urge local, state, and national leaders to set a national goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years, and to build the political and public will to advance legislation and programs that will help us to reach it. More information on the campaign can be found at www.halfinten.org.