Waging War on Poverty: Historical Trends in Poverty Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure
Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey and the March Current Population Survey, we calculate historical poverty estimates based on the new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) from 1967 to 2012. During this period, poverty as officially measured has stagnated. However, the official poverty measure (OPM) does not account for the effect of near-cash transfers on the financial resources available to families, an important omission since such transfers have become an increasingly important part of government anti-poverty policy. Applying the SPM, which does count such transfers, we find that historical trends in poverty have been more favorable than the OPM suggests and that government policies have played an important and growing role in reducing poverty --- a role that is not evident when the OPM is used to assess poverty. We also find that government programs have played a particularly important role in alleviating child poverty and deep poverty, especially during economic downturns.
We are grateful for funding support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) through grant R24 HD058486-03 to the Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC). We benefited from research assistance from Madeleine Gelblum, Nathan Hutto, and Ethan Raker. We are also grateful to seminar participants at CPRC and Russell Sage Foundation, as well as many colleagues who provided helpful insights and advice, in particular, Jodie Allen, Ajay Chauhdry, Sheldon Danziger, Daniel Feenberg, Gordon Fisher, Thesia Garner, David Johnson, Mark Levitan, Trudi Renwick, Kathy Short, and Tim Smeeding. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Liana Fox & Christopher Wimer & Irwin Garfinkel & Neeraj Kaushal & Jane Waldfogel, 2015. "Waging War on Poverty: Poverty Trends Using a Historical Supplemental Poverty Measure," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol 34(3), pages 567-592.