What is the Supplemental Poverty Measure and How Does it Differ from the Official Measure?

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Written by: Kathleen Short, Census Bureau Economist

In September, the U.S. Census Bureau released official poverty statistics for the United States for the 2013 calendar year. The current official poverty measure was developed in the early 1960s, and only a few minor changes have been implemented since that time.

In 2010, an interagency technical working group asked the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to develop a new measure that would improve our understanding of the economic well-being of American families and enhance our ability to measure the effect of federal policies on those living in poverty. The technical design of the supplemental poverty measure draws on the recommendations of a 1995 National Academy of Sciences report and the extensive research on poverty measurement conducted over the past 15 years. See the history of poverty measures in the United States here: http://www.census.gov/how/infographics/poverty_measure-history.html

This week, the Census Bureau will release the fourth report on the supplemental poverty measure, containing estimates for the 2013 calendar year. The report presents estimates for and discusses differences between the official and the supplemental poverty measures. The major differences are listed in the box below and in this chart: http://www.census.gov/how/infographics/poverty_measure-how.html

The official measure compares a family’s or individual’s before-tax cash income to a set of thresholds based on the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963, updated to 2013 by changes in prices. To determine poverty status, the measure compares the family’s cash income, such as earnings from a job or Social Security benefits, with the official poverty threshold. It does not take account of the value of important federal programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and housing and energy assistance, nor does it account for refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, aimed specifically at families with low income.

The supplemental poverty measure does take into account family resources and expenses not included in the official measure. The value of noncash benefits that are available to buy the basic bundle of goods are added to cash income. Necessary expenses for critical goods and services are subtracted, such as income taxes, social security payroll taxes, child care and other work-related expenses, out-of-pocket contributions toward the cost of medical care and health insurance premiums, and child support payments to another household.

Thresholds used in the new measure are prepared at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and derived from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. They are based on the most recent five-year reports on how much people spend on basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing and utilities) and are adjusted for geographic differences in the cost of housing.

Chart comparing official poverty measure and supplemental poverty measure components

This week’s report will compare 2013 supplemental poverty estimates with 2013 official poverty estimates for numerous demographic groups. It will provide state-level poverty estimates and show how our perception of the poverty population differs from that using the official statistics. In addition, the report will examine the effect of noncash benefits, tax credits and necessary expenses on supplemental poverty rates.

For more details on the new measure, please see the technical appendices of the November 2013 report or the technical webinar presented with the release of the first supplemental poverty measure report in November 2011.

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Out of Africa: Recent Growth of the African Foreign-Born Population

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Written By: Christine Gambino, Edward Trevelyan and Elizabeth M. Grieco

When someone says the word “immigrant,” many people likely picture Europeans moving through Ellis Island during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Others think of a more recent time — especially after 1980 — when most immigrants arrived from countries in Latin America, such as Mexico, and, to a lesser extent, Asia. However, it may be surprising to learn that recent data show that the African foreign-born population is one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States.

The African-born population has experienced rapid growth over the last 40 years, approximately doubling in size each decade since 1970. Between 1990 and 2000, the African-born population grew by over 140 percent, from 364,000 to 881,000, according to decennial census statistics. It nearly doubled again by 2012, reaching over 1.7 million, according to the American Community Survey.

Although the growth of the African foreign-born over the past decade was rapid, this population still represents only 4 percent of the 40.8 million foreign-born and less than 1 percent of the 313.9 million residents of the United States.

The foreign-born from Africa remain fewer in number than immigrants from other regions of the world as well. For example, in 2012 there were 21.3 million foreign-born from Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for over half (52 percent) of all foreign-born and about 7 percent of the total population. The Asian foreign-born represented over one-fourth (29 percent) of the total foreign-born population and about 4 percent of the U.S. population.

A notable characteristic of the foreign-born population from Africa is the relatively high proportion that recently arrived in the United States. More than two out of five (43 percent) African-born immigrants in America arrived between 2003 and 2012 (see figure).
OutOfAfrica_Graphic1

This high proportion of recent arrivals is not typical of all immigrants, as about one-quarter (26 percent) of the total foreign-born population entered during the same 10-year period. The proportion of African-born who entered from 2003 to 2012 was higher than all other regions, including Asia (32 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (24 percent).

Of the 746,000 foreign-born from Africa who entered the country between 2003 and 2012, about half were from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya. The origin countries with the highest proportion of their total populations arriving after 2003 (about half for each) included Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The foreign-born population from Africa is a small but rapidly growing segment of immigrants, many of whom arrived in this country relatively recently. This population’s cultural diversity and other unique qualities, such as high educational achievement (41 percent of African-born immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher educational attainment in 2012, compared with 28 percent of the overall foreign-born), promise to add to the diverse American landscape.

For more information on the African foreign-born in the United States, see the new report released today The Foreign-Born Population from Africa: 2008-2012.

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The American Community Survey in Action

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Written By: Cheryl Chambers

Today’s annual release of American Community Survey statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau helps communities, organizations, businesses and governments make informed decisions by providing information on more than 40 topics, from educational attainment to commuting to language spoken at home.

Retailers, homebuilders, police departments and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision-makers who count on these important statistics. Here are a few examples of how Census Bureau statistics from the American Community Survey helps make a difference in local communities.

KaBOOM!

KaBOOM! uses American Community Survey statistics, such as median household income and the number of children 12 and under, to identify populations in need of play equipment where playgrounds would get the most use. They use these statistics as a baseline for their program to promote the concept that “Play matters for all kids!” KaBOOM! has created over 2,500 playgrounds across the country to  serve more than 6.5 million children.

National Institutes of Health and RTI International

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health and RTI International use American Community Survey statistics to create “synthetic” populations and simulate the spread of disease. This allows decision-makers to determine the effect of disease transmission and prepare for the next potential outbreak.

Transportation Planning

How many people in your area are on the road and when?  Transportation is a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure. Statistics from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey allow planners to determine the most effective use of transportation spending and the delivery of services.

Emergency Planning

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides statistics that communities use to make decisions about resources, such as after a natural disaster. These statistics are critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts. For example, the American Community Survey provides detailed information on how many people in a community may need extra assistance during a disaster, such as the elderly, disabled or those who speak a language other than English. Knowing these specific details about local communities gives decision makers the information they need to plan and efficiently deploy resources and to accurately measure the impact of a disaster. Visit the Stats in Action page to see some examples.

These are just a few examples of how your community may use everyday statistics. Tell us how you use the American Community Survey in the comments below.

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Married with Health Insurance Coverage

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By Brett O’Hara and Jennifer Cheeseman Day

Married adults under age 65 were more likely to have health insurance coverage than people who were never married or were divorced, separated or widowed. Today, the Census Bureau released new health insurance coverage estimates for 2013 that may provide some insight. In addition to estimates of the number of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2013 calendar year, the Census Bureau also presents estimates of types of coverage for those who had health insurance, whether private or government-provided.

Looking at these statistics, we find that the relationship between marital status and health insurance coverage may differ for men and women (Figure1). Both married men and married women have the lowest uninsured rates. For those who were never married, men had higher uninsured rates than women. In fact, the uninsured rate for never-married men was 6 percentage points higher than the rate for never-married women (at 27.4 percent and 21.2 percent, respectively). Even for those never married who had health insurance coverage, the rates for both private or government provided were lower for men than for women.

fig1

A person’s marital status can change over time, and in instances such as separation or divorce, losing health insurance coverage can be a hardship. For people who were separated, the rate of private coverage was lower than for people who were married, and separated men had a higher rate of private coverage than women. In contrast, government-provided health coverage among people who were separated was higher for women than men.

Among people who were divorced, private health insurance coverage rates did not differ between men and women, and both were higher than for their counterparts who were separated.

You can find more analysis about health insurance coverage in the report Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013, as well as detailed tables on the Census Bureau website at <http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/hlthins/>.

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Child Poverty Down – Income of Families with Children Up

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First Annual Decline in Child Poverty Since 2000

Written By: Trudi Renwick, Chief, Poverty Statistics Branch, U.S. Census Bureau

Today the Census Bureau released the 2013 annual Income and Poverty in the United States report. Poverty among children under age 18 fell from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013. This is the first statistically significant year-to-year decline in child poverty since 2000. For the second year in a row, there was an increase in the median income of families with children.

Figure1_ChildPoverty

This meant there were 1.4 million fewer children living in poverty, reducing the child poverty count from 16.1 million in 2012 to 14.7 million in 2013.Figure3_ChildPoverty

Child poverty rates fell for non-Hispanic whites, Asians and Hispanics between 2012 and 2013. The poverty rates for black Figure2_ChildPovertychildren did not change between 2012 and 2013. White non-Hispanic children were responsible for about half of the reduction in the number of children in poverty. The number of Hispanic children in poverty was down 561,000.

Child poverty rates were down in three of the four regions. The change in the poverty rate for children in the South was not statistically significant. Poverty fell both for children in metropolitan statistical areas and children living outside metropolitan statistical areas.

Figure3_ChildPoverty

 

Reductions in poverty were significant for children in married-couple families and families with a male householder. The changes in poverty for children in families with a female householder were not statistically significant.

The poverty status of children is determined by looking at the incomes of their families. Median income for families with children increased between 2011 and 2012 and again between 2012 and 2013 − from $59,285 in 2011 to $60,856 in 2012 to $62,161 in 2013.

Figure5_ChildPoverty

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of full-time year-round workers in families with minor children increased from 40.1 million to 41.0 million, an increase of about 960,000 workers. Over this same period, there was a decline of 644,000 in the number of less than full-time, year-round workers in these families.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2000 to 2014 Annual Social and Economic Supplements.

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