National Academies Press: OpenBook

Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (1995)

Chapter: DATA SOURCES

« Previous: Poverty Rates Using SIPP
Suggested Citation:"DATA SOURCES." National Research Council. 1995. Measuring Poverty: A New Approach. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4759.
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Page 280

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EFFECTS OF THE PROPOSED POVERTY MEASURE 280 However, allowing for the attrition effect would still produce a 2-3 percentage point difference in the poverty rates estimated by the two surveys. With regard to poverty rates for various groups, Census Bureau tabulations for 1987 and 1988 indicate that differences between SIPP and the March CPS are similar for most groups under the current measure, with the CPS rate always higher. For example, for 1987, the March CPS rate was 124 percent of the SIPP rate for the total population, 124 percent for men, 125 percent for women, 128 percent for people aged 18 to 64, 123 percent for Hispanics, and 132 percent for whites. For blacks, the March CPS rate was only 107 percent of the SIPP rate, and for children it was 115 percent. For the elderly, the CPS rate was 140 percent of the SIPP rate. The patterns were similar for 1988 (Short and Shea, 1991: Table D-3). These results suggest that differences between the March CPS and SIPP would be similar under the proposed measure for most groups, with the March CPS rate exceeding the SIPP rate in every case. In the next section, we consider explicitly the role of SIPP in poverty measurement and the overall need for improved data. DATA SOURCES Critically important for the measurement of poverty is the availability of appropriate, high-quality, and timely data—both for developing and updating the poverty thresholds and for estimating the resources available to families and individuals. We experienced first-hand the problems of inadequate data on family resources in analyzing the effects of implementing the proposed poverty measure in place of the current measure. Similarly, in attempting to understand the behavior of the proposed method for updating the poverty thresholds (see Chapter 2), we faced inadequate time-series data on consumer expenditures. We note specific data problems and possible solutions in many places throughout our report. In this section we pull together in broad terms our proposals for improvements to support appropriate and accurate poverty measurement now and into the future. We first consider needed improvements for estimating families' resources in terms of disposable money and near-money income. On the resource side of the ledger, the data requirements are particularly pressing because of demands for fast release of the latest poverty statistics and the need for large sample sizes to support reliable comparisons across population groups, geographic areas, and time periods. A fundamental issue for resource estimation is which of the two major income surveys in the United States—the March CPS or SIPP—should provide the basis for official poverty statistics with the proposed definition. We then look briefly at issues of estimating disposable income for surveys that are focused on other topics (e.g., health or housing) but need background

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Each year's poverty figures are anxiously awaited by policymakers, analysts, and the media. Yet questions are increasing about the 30-year-old measure as social and economic conditions change.

In Measuring Poverty a distinguished panel provides policymakers with an up-to-date evaluation of

  • Concepts and procedures for deriving the poverty threshold, including adjustments for different family circumstances.
  • Definitions of family resources.
  • Procedures for annual updates of poverty measures.

The volume explores specific issues underlying the poverty measure, analyzes the likely effects of any changes on poverty rates, and discusses the impact on eligibility for public benefits. In supporting its recommendations the panel provides insightful recognition of the political and social dimensions of this key economic indicator.

Measuring Poverty will be important to government officials, policy analysts, statisticians, economists, researchers, and others involved in virtually all poverty and social welfare issues.

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