Report: Time to modernize poverty measurement

According to a report out this week, when it comes to placing children in foster care versus a group home or institution, Utah's performance mirrors the national average. Photo credit: Catawba County, North Carolina.

<span>SALT LAKE CITY – The formula the federal government uses to measure poverty in the United States is outdated and should be modernized to better reflect the true picture of poverty in America, according to </span><a href=”http://www.aecf.org/” target=”parent”>a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation</a><span>.</span>

<span>Terry Haven, interim director of Voices for Utah Children, said the Federal Poverty Level guidelines, established in the 1960s, only consider the cost of food and none of the other major expenses of raising a family.</span>

<span>”It doesn’t take into account costs of basic expenses like housing, transportation, health care, child care – all of those things that we know a family has to pay for,” she said.</span>

<span>The poverty guidelines also don’t consider the cost-of-living differences that can change based on where a person lives, Haven said.</span>

<span>The report from the Casey Foundation called on the government to start using the Supplemental Poverty Measure developed by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011. Haven said it measures the impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other safety-net programs. She says without such programs, Utah’s 11 percent child poverty rate could double.</span>

<span>”The programs that you sometimes want to cut, they’re working, they’re working to reduce poverty, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” she said. “They really are safety net programs. If you were going to eliminate those safety nets, you’re going to see an additional 98,000 children in poverty in Utah.”</span>

<span>Haven said using the Supplemental Poverty Measure also can help lawmakers develop a keener understanding of which safety-net programs are working best. She said child poverty costs the United States an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity and earnings, as well as health and crime-related costs.</span>

<span>The Annie E. Casey report is online at </span><a href=”http://www.aecf.org/” target=”parent”>AECF.org</a><span>.</span>

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