The Census Bureau, with support from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the support of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has developed an additional methodology for measuring poverty in America.
Work on the supplemental measure of poverty began when then-OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein requested OMB’s Chief Statistician, Katherine K. Wallman, to spearhead an improved understanding of poverty. CRE has had a long term interest in publicizing the poverty level. It is not an overstatement to summarize Jim Tozzi’s views as being that the unemployment rate, as important as it is, is essentially a “middle class” metric because even at an 8% unemployment level, 92% of the cohort is employed—a statistic of minimal interest to either the rich or the poor. A metric that states that 1 in 6 Americans are in poverty demonstrates a need for it being given considerably more attention in public policy debates.
With the assistance of Dr. Rebecca Blank who had just become the Commerce Department’s Under Secretary for Economic Affairs (and is now the Department’s Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary), who oversees the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and who has a longstanding research interest in developing an improved understanding of poverty assembled a very small team to examine some of the “unsettled” methodological questions and ultimately proposed a supplemental measure that is now regularly published as a “research series”.
Particular credit for intellectual and production contributions go to David Johnson, Chief of the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division and his team. Important technical assistance was provided by Thesia Garner, Senior Research Economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics who was responsible for fostering the needed improvements in the BLS series that are integral to the measure.
Crucial assistance to the effort was also provided by Martha Coven, then Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity at the Domestic Policy Council and now OMB’s Program Associate Director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor.
Accolades also go the statistical policy analysis performed by Ms. Wallman and her colleague in OIRA’s Office of Statistical & Science Policy, Paul Bugg.
CRE calls particular attention to one point in the findings—the prevalence of children living in poverty: “Even though supplemental poverty rates were lower for children and higher for those 65 and older than under the official measure, the rates for children were still higher than the rates for 18- to 64-year-olds and people 65 and older.”
The above-mentioned individuals deserve everyone’s applause and appreciation for furthering our understanding poverty including America’s most vexing problem – children living in poverty.