Obama administration issues another way of measuring what it means to be poor

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post
3/2/2010

The Obama administration Wednesday issued an alternative definition of what it means to be poor, stepping gingerly into a long-running debate over whether to revise the way poverty has been measured for decades.

Under a “Supplemental Poverty Measure” announced by the Commerce Department, the government is augmenting the formula used for nearly a half-century to determine how many people live in poverty, which has been based on the cost of food and the cash income a family takes in.

The new measure will not replace the official federal poverty line, which is used by the federal government and states to decide which Americans qualify for a variety of assistance programs, including Medicaid, welfare and food stamps. Instead, the second formula “provides us a different angle on who is in economic need,” said Rebecca Blank, Commerce’s under secretary for economic affairs, who had advocated for more than a decade before joining the administration for a different way of thinking about who is poor.

The new definition will take into account a wider range of both expenses and sources of income. It will, for instance, consider the amount that families spend for shelter, utilities, child care and medical care, as well as the financial help they receive from housing and food subsidies.

The article continues at the Washington Post.

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