versus deducting such expenditures from resources). However, there was no movement to replace the official poverty measure.

In the late 2000s, there was renewed interest in revisiting the 1995 panel’s recommendations with the goal of agreeing on a revised poverty measure that would supplement rather than replace the official measure. The House Committee on Ways and Means developed draft legislation, introduced in 2008 and again in 2009 as the Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009, which incorporated the NRC recommendations; the official measure would have been termed the “historical measure.”

More recently, an Interagency Technical Working Group (ITWG) on Developing a Supplemental Poverty Measure, under the leadership of OMB, directed the Census Bureau in cooperation with BLS to calculate a new Supplemental Poverty Measure from the CPS Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) and to publish it concurrently with the official measure beginning in September 2011 (Interagency Technical Working Group, 2010).5 (Failure to obtain needed funding delayed the publication of the SPM until November 2011.)

This new supplemental measure adopts the NRC recommendation to deduct medical insurance and other out-of-pocket expenses from resources prior to determining poverty status. By design, it does not fully address the economic risk to the population in terms of the adequacy of their health insurance coverage to pay for their expected health care needs, which the CNSTAT panel proposed would be covered by a separate measure. However, such a measure has yet to be developed.


As aptly stated by Meier and Wolfe (in Part III of this report), the challenge in poverty measurement with respect to medical care need and economic risk has not been identifying the problem, but rather determining the best methods to resolve it. Prior to the 1995 NRC report, research focused on a single measure of economic poverty that would account for medical care needs and resources. Yet achieving agreement on what would constitute a conceptually sound and operationally feasible approach proved stubbornly intractable. The 1995 panel observed (National Research Council, 1995:223):

The issue of how best to treat medical care needs and resources in the poverty measure had bedeviled analysts since the mid-1970s, when rapid growth in the Medicare and Medicaid programs (and in private health


5 The ITWG included representatives from BLS, the Census Bureau, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, and OMB.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement