A report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that the federal government’s official poverty measure, which was created in the 1960s, uses outdated information on how U.S. children and families are faring today. Research shows that families need an income of roughly twice the official poverty threshold, currently about $24,000 per year for a family of four, to cover the entire cost of basic expenses for housing, food, transportation, health care and child care.
The new Data Snapshot, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, points to a better index for measuring poverty—the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM takes into account a more accurate inventory of basic family expenses, the differences in regional cost of living and the effect of supports including federal and state programs and family-friendly tax policies.
Using the more precise Supplemental Poverty Measure shows that 25 percent of Colorado children—one in four kids—would be living in poverty without the assistance of state and federal programs such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), housing subsidies and tax policies such as the EITC and Child Tax Credit. However, when the effect of these supports are taken into account, Colorado’s child poverty rate is cut nearly in half, from 25 percent to 13 percent. In other words, these programs kept 147,000 Colorado children out of poverty between 2011 and 2013.
As a research-driven advocacy organization, we believe that the most accurate, reliable measurements of poverty are important to not only give us the clearest picture of how Colorado kids are doing, but also to help evaluate the programs and policies that best support children and their families. Click here to read the full report.