No Matter How You Add It Up, Children Do Not Fare Well
Nov 19, 2012
The release of the 2011 supplemental poverty measure findings grants us the opportunity to look at poverty from a different perspective. Unfortunately, no matter which calculation you use or how you add it up, children are still not doing well. The supplemental poverty measure shows data for 2011 and only confirms that far too many children and families continue to struggle with meeting basic needs.
The supplemental poverty measure, released for the first time in 2010, provides a more detailed way to evaluate poverty across the country. Unlike the official poverty measure, which the Census Bureau releases earlier in the fall, the supplemental poverty measure adjusts the poverty thresholds based on geographic areas and differences in the cost of living across the country. It also takes into account expenses that are necessary for an individual to work including transportation and child care costs, as well as differences in health care costs and uses a different formula for calculating the number of people in a family.
While the supplemental poverty measure may provide a more detailed view of poverty, the larger picture remains bleak. For 2011, the official poverty measure shows that 22.3 percent of children from birth to age 18 lived in poverty, while the supplemental poverty measure shows that 18.1 percent of children lived in poverty. There is good reason for the supplemental rate being lower: the supplemental measure includes how well government programs perform in staving off poverty. Analysis conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that government programs kept millions out of poverty in 2011--the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) kept 3.1 million children out of poverty, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) kept 2.1 million children out of poverty, and Unemployment Insurance kept 1 million children out of poverty. The supplemental poverty measure for 2011 is up just one tenth of a percent from 2010.
No matter which measure you look at, the number of children living in poor families is immense, and these families' everyday reality is unchanged. Too many families are struggling with hunger, difficulty in paying the bills, and tough choices. As research shows, poverty puts children at risk of poor educational performance, reduced health and a host of negative outcomes down the road. Given the continued, negative data showing the poor state of child well-being and family financial well-being, it is imperative that policymakers, new and old, understand the need for continued investment in our youngest children. Children can't advocate for themselves, so it's up to us all to work toward reducing poverty and ensuring kids have the resources they need to grow up healthy and strong.