The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)
All the data you’ve seen on this page is based off of one measure: the Official Poverty Measure (OPM) used by the federal government. This measure is the same for all states, counties, and cities in the United States (even if poverty looks very different in different places). The Official Poverty Measure is comparatively narrow next to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM); take a look for yourself clicking the link below:
The key elements of the SPM are measuring cash income, benefit programs, tax credits, and expenditures on basic needs. The SPM takes into account how anti-poverty programs reduce poverty, which the OPM does not. The SPM is also much more current than the OPM: OPM’s measurement of the poverty threshold is partially based on food costs from 1963!
According to the Center for American Progress, the current poverty measure accounts for 1/7th of the average family’s expenses.
Disaggregating data for measurements of the SPM helps show how different policy choices, such as CHIP or Social Security, can shape poverty. Also, given different costs and employability for different populations, the poverty measure will vary. See the graph below for more information.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2016”
The National Academy of Science Measure
In the 1990s, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that the poverty measure be a threshold to afford basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter counting cash and noncash resources and varying by location. With the NAS measure, poverty thresholds and rates are higher than the current Federal measurement nationwide, with a decrease in extreme poverty.
Disaggregated Poverty Data