News Release

Poverty Rate in Most States and Among Children Lowered by New Measure

SHAWN FREMSTAD, fremstad at, Alan Barber, alanbbarber at
Fremstad is senior research associate with the Center for Economic and Policy Research and just wrote the piece “New Obama Poverty Measure Lowers Poverty Rates in Most States and Among Children.”

The piece states: “On Friday, November 4, the Census Bureau is holding a webinar on the Obama Administration’s proposed ‘supplemental’ poverty measure. The webinar is in advance of the release of new research on the measure on Monday. … In most states, the Obama poverty measure, at least as currently conceived, would result in lower poverty rates (and poverty thresholds) than the current official measure. …

“It is particularly striking that the biggest declines in poverty rates under the Obama measure would occur in many of the poorest states. Among the 10 states with the lowest per capita GDP, six are also in the top 10 of the states that would see the largest decline in poverty rates under the Obama measure. If, as [right-wing critics Robert Rector and Robert Samuelson] claim, the Obama measure ‘promotes income redistribution,’ it is regressive rather than progressive in federal fiscal terms — redistribution from a majority of mostly smaller and poorer state economies to a minority of mostly larger and wealthier ones.

“This result is largely produced by two flawed elements of the Obama measure: 1) it adopts a poverty threshold that is far too low as a measure of what is needed to live a minimally decent life today (only $23,854 for a family of two parents and two children in 2009, according to the Administration); and 2) it adjusts this threshold for geographic differences in housing costs in a way that allows the poverty thresholds for many states and sub-state areas to actually fall below the outdated federal poverty threshold.”