A Profoundly Different Look at Child Poverty Rates

Last weKC_DS_SPM_badges01_300pxek, Kentucky Youth Advocates released a new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot by the Annie E. Casey Foundation on Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States. That title is admittedly dry, and its focus – the Supplemental Poverty Measure – is a difficult to explain methodology for calculating poverty. However, there is something we can all get excited about in the study, namely evidence of the impact anti-poverty programs and tax policies are having on child poverty in Kentucky.

The U.S. Census Bureau created the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) to more accurately assess poverty nationally and by state than the outdated Official Poverty Measure created half a century ago. The Official Poverty Measure formula was based on an average family spending one-third of their budget on food; this was true in the 1960s, but food now represents less than 10 percent of a typical family budget!

Though the SPM isn’t officially replacing the old measure, this alternative tool enables us to see whether government interventions designed to improve family economic stability are indeed helping families meet their needs. Without going into too much detail, the SPM gives us a profoundly different look at child poverty by including a wide array of anti-poverty interventions, from cash assistance programs to noncash benefits like food stamps and housing subsidies, and tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit. The SPM also uses an updated poverty threshold that makes sense based on modern family budgets, and taking regional costs of living into consideration.

The results of the SPM are truly profound. The SPM shows us that taking into account the wide array of government interventions, Kentucky’s child poverty rate is 15 percent, but if all those interventions were stripped away, it would be 38 percent. This tells us that our government investments make a significant difference for thousands of Kentucky families and that we need to continue investing in them. This evidence of effectiveness is important information for policymakers when they are choosing how to use public dollars. Please share this statistic with your state and federal elected officials the next time you see an anti-poverty program put on the chopping block.

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